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Stadium plan gets city's support

November 09, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Four of the five Hagerstown City Council members said Tuesday they support a $12 million to $15 million stadium/railroad museum proposal.

The council agreed to formally vote on Nov. 23 to back the stadium plan, which calls for $3 million in city funding.

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Councilman J. Wallace McClure was the lone dissenter.

McClure said he hasn't seen broad public support for spending public funds on a new stadium. He called for a referendum on the matter.

McClure's request for a referendum was not discussed by the other council members.

The four council members agreed they would vote on a letter that would commit the city to contribute $3 million to the project if certain conditions are met. Those conditions would include securing $3 million from the Washington County government, $6 million from the state and $3 million from private sources.

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How the city would pay for the $3 million contribution has not been determined.

The council also agreed to ask the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to back the stadium project in the upcoming legislative session.

The proposal was developed by a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce committee. Dick Phoebus, the committee chairman, recently presented the plan for a stadium/railroad museum to the council and the Washington County Commissioners.

Under the plan, a stadium and railroad museum would be built in Hagerstown or on land adjacent to city limits that could be annexed into the city.

A site for the proposed stadium/railroad museum has not been identified.

The Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball team would be the primary tenant in a new stadium. The baseball field would have space for youth soccer fields in the outfield.

The Washington County Commissioners have not scheduled a vote on the proposal.

County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz, the only commissioner to publicly back the proposal so far, has predicted the commissioners will vote on the matter before the end of the year.

City and county support is seen as a prerequisite for state funding.

Suns General Manager David Blenckstone has said the real test will be whether city and county officials back the plan, not whether a funding request gets to the state level this year.

Some stadium supporters believe they need to get some state funding for the plan in the upcoming legislative session or run the risk of losing the team.

Supporters say the city and county must vote to provide funds for a new stadium before the next legislative session begins on Jan. 12 if there is to be any chance state money for the project will be available in the next fiscal year.

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