Delegation working on its own stadium plan

February 02, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - State lawmakers say Hagerstown's latest minor league stadium funding plan doesn't appear to answer questions they asked in December.

But lawmakers have been working on their own plan to pay for a proposed $12 million to $15 million Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex.

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Members of the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly would reveal little about their plan, calling it a "work in progress."

"We're not just sitting back with our eyes closed and our head in the sand," said Delegation Chairman Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.


The plan will include relief for Washington County's $52.3 million water and sewer debt, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Before proceeding, members of the delegation said they want a formal presentation on the stadium from Hagerstown's mayor and council and other stadium supporters. A meeting date has not been set.

At that point, the plan will become the delegation's to change, Munson said.

"We're going to rework it to the benefit of the citizens of Washington County," he said.

Lawmakers got a brief update on the city's plan from Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who made a surprise visit to Wednesday's delegation meeting.

The Hagerstown City Council voted Tuesday to spend no more money financing a new stadium than they now spend on Municipal Stadium.

The rest of the city-county share would come from proceeds from a proposed increase in the hotel-motel tax, which would require approval of the delegation and the Maryland General Assembly.

After the meeting, Del. Christopher B. Shank said he's concerned that the city's share of the project appears to have dwindled from $3 million to as low as $1 million.

"The city needs to step up to the plate," said Shank, R-Washington.

But Munson, who said he doesn't want the city to spend more on a stadium than taxpayers can afford, said the city's lower commitment may be prudent.

The biggest thing still missing from the plan is a strong private sector commitment, Munson said.

"Where's the money. Show us the money." he said.

There isn't even a definite location for the new stadium, he said, although backers have proposed building it on CSX-owned property off Wesel Boulevard.

Other questions include whether the stadium will be financed with taxable or tax-exempt bonds, which will determine how many millions can be raised.

There are still no definite plans for Municipal Stadium, other than it would be shut down when the new one opens. Bruchey said the nearly 70-year-old structure will most likely be sold.

"At this point they've introduced more questions than they've answered," Munson said.

Meanwhile, time is running out for something to happen this legislative session.

House of Delegates members were cautioned Wednesday about the next bill filing deadline of Feb. 10. After that, the Rules Committee will decide which bills can proceed.

"Unlike last year, it's going to be much more difficult to get the bills out of Rules," Majority Leader Del. John A. Hurson said.

However, local bills will be given preferential treatment, he told McKee.

Several local bills are still being drafted. The delegation has not pursued a bill to increase the hotel-motel tax increase.

Munson said time may run out this year to act on a stadium.

Eventually, stadium supporters will ask Gov. Parris Glendening for a state commitment.

"If the state can give $7 million to Aberdeen, then the state can give $5 million to this project," Bruchey said.

Aberdeen, Md., is building a $25 million minor league baseball stadium and academy with the help of a $9 million gift from Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr.

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