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Suns gave boost to economy with winning season

November 30, 1999|By Tom Riford

Special to The Daily Mail

This summer proved to be a wonderful year for Hagers-town Suns baseball ? and also for Hagerstown-Washington County.

While the Suns chalked up a banner year for paid attendance (more than a 50 percent increase over two years ago, totaling more than 153,000 fans), the Suns also should be congratulated for other efforts and accomplishments, too.

Winning the first half of the season, battling into the playoffs and making it into the finals were laudable achievements on the playing field.

While the Suns brought a lot of people into our county this season, the team also provided a family-oriented amenity for local residents.

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It was a season of anniversaries ? 25 years of the Hagerstown Suns, and 75 years of Municipal Stadium.

During the season, the team celebrated with numerous special events, fun promotions, charitable fundraisers and community-minded activities. The Suns hosted nonbaseball events that raised tens of thousands of dollars for local nonprofits.

The Suns again put Hagers-town in a positive news light, by organizing and hostingthe National Egg Tossing Championships, the chili cook-off and music festival, a baseball-themed art exhibit (which was a cooperative effort with the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts), a fundraiser for the Hagerstown Community College scholarship fund, various kids activities and even a day for weddingvow renewals.

The famous came to see the Suns this year ? best-selling author Nora Roberts, former baseball great Darryl Strawberry, former football great Jim Burt, a Hollywood producer and even world-famous Frisbee-catching dogs. The Suns did everything to make the 2005 season fun, including involving dairy cows, Yogi Bear, a preseason game against HCC, a beer tasting event and even a day honoring Eskimos.

During the 2005 season, I personally met people from Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Pa., Virginia and Massachusetts ? all of whom had traveled here, and spent nights here, to watch the Hagerstown Suns play.

The economic impact of the Hagerstown Suns is something to not be taken for granted. The Hagerstown Suns mean as much as$3.5 million and as high as $11.5 million or more of local impact, taken into account an economic multiplier effect.

With more than 153,000 fans buying tickets, buying refreshments and more, there's economic impact. With more than 2,000 hotel rooms being booked by visiting teams, there's economic impact. With another 1,000 rooms going to visiting fans, there's economic impact. Plus, the Suns have about 100 employees during six months of the year. On top of that, the Suns go out of their way to be part of this community, raising money for nonprofits and making positive national news.

Suppliers and vendors, media, ancillary amenities ... It all is part of the positive effect that baseball has on our local economy. I've met people who say that they chose to locate here because we have professional baseball.

There are many great things about our community, which create good news about Hagerstown and Washington County, but consistently and creatively, the Hagerstown Suns make positive national news.Having the Suns in hundreds of newspapers, coast-to-coast on the wire services, on hundreds of radio and TV stations and also in magazines around the country because of fun promotions, or because of the team doing well in the playoffs ispositive public relations our community couldn't buy, even if it wanted to.

The Hagerstown Suns stretch themarketing impact forour community, which helps our economic development and tourism efforts. Tourism is important to our economy, and baseball is an important part of that economic mix.

Thank you, Hagerstown Suns for a great season, and thank you for making a positive impact on our community!

Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears monthly in The Daily Mail.The CVB's web site is www.maryland memories.com.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help attract visitors to Hagerstown and Washington County. The CVB helps to create vibrant growth for the local economy by promoting, developing, and expanding the local visitor industry.

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