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Officials to tour Pa. stadium

May 24, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown Suns officials are taking a group of local leaders on a field trip to Altoona, Pa., Wednesday, to show them Altoona's new $12 million baseball stadium and make a point about Hagerstown's need for a new ballpark.

But the officeholders that Suns officials had hoped to sway by taking them to a new stadium are not expected to join team officials on the trip.

The group going to Altoona is expected to include Washington County Commissioner Paul Swartz, Hagerstown City Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, Executive Director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau Ben Hart, Hagerstown/Washington County Economic Development Commission Coordinator Tim Troxell and Hagerstown Community College Athletic Director Jim Brown. All support the Suns' push for a new stadium, as do the dozen or so others expected to join them on Wednesday, said Suns General Manager David Blenckstone, whose father owns the team.

Blenckstone said he was "a little disappointed" that not one elected official who either opposes a new stadium or who hasn't voiced support for spending government money on a new ballpark is going to Altoona.

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The point was to get those who haven't come out for a new stadium to go on the trip, Blenckstone said.

"We may be preaching to the choir on this trip" he said.

Those invited but not going include Washington County's representatives to the General Assembly, Blenckstone said.

"Maybe they had no time in their schedules," he said.

Altoona's Blair County Ballpark opened April 15. It is the home field for the Altoona Curve, a Class AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team is scheduled to play the New Haven (Conn.) Ravens at noon Wednesday.

The $12 million ballpark and adjacent parking garage was paid for with $10.8 million in state funds, $500,000 from the county government and $700,000 from the team owner, according to team spokeswoman Robin Wentz.

Visiting Altoona will give Hagerstown and Washington County leaders an idea of what they are missing, Blenckstone said.

One complaint about Hagerstown's 68-year-old Municipal Stadium is that it lacks adequate parking and has a small hill in left field.

Without a new stadium the Suns franchise likely would be sold to someone who would move the team out of Hagerstown, Blenckstone said.

He said there is a possibility the Suns could be moved as soon as next year, although he said that was unlikely.

A proposal for a $15 million stadium and business park along Interstate 81 and Salem Avenue in Hagerstown was dropped after the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation said the project was not financially feasible.

Supporters of a new stadium are preparing another proposal.

Boyer, who with Swartz co-chairs a stadium task force organized by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said another stadium proposal will be made public within a month.

Boyer said that built alone a new stadium would likely cost about $11 million.

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