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Stadium proposal up for consideration again

January 08, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

For the fourth year in a row, local lawmakers will consider funding a new baseball stadium in Hagerstown when the Maryland General Assembly session opens this week.

Earlier stadium proposals never got off the ground because of lukewarm local support.

This year, for the first time, the Washington County Commissioners are backing the idea of a $12 million to $15 million Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex.

"It certainly has more momentum coming into the session than any other session I've been part of," said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington.

But there's a catch. To make it work, the local delegation would have to support an increase in the county's hotel/motel tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. The extra money would pay half of the city's loan payment on the new stadium.

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First, the Hagerstown City Council must be willing to finance the entire $6 million local share.

The delegation would also have to get the General Assembly's support for $6 million in state funding.

Before they make any decisions, most delegation members say they want to hear a formal presentation from the city and from stadium supporters which is supposed to be made early in the 90-day session.

At least one lawmaker said he doesn't support new taxes.

"They're saying that it's not important enough to use the current money they have," said Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

While the stadium proposal has strong support from the business community, it has had opposition from bed and breakfast owners who would be affected by the tax increase and from some taxpayers.

Some have suggested the issue should go to referendum so voters can decide.

The proposed stadium complex could be built on 40 acres of CSX-owned property off Wesel Boulevard, about 1/2 mile from Burhans Boulevard near where the roundhouse was torn down last year.

The Hagerstown Suns would be the primary tenant of the complex, and the baseball field would have space for youth soccer fields in the outfield. The Roundhouse Museum would be at the site.

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