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Stadium supporters confident private funds will come

February 09, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Business leaders say they are confident they can raise the money needed from the private sector to help built a proposed Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex.

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Fund-raising can begin if the Maryland General Assembly approves a tax increase plan proposed by local lawmakers, Richard Phoebus, chairman of a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce task force, said Wednesday.

Speaking to the local legislative delegation, Phoebus and a contingent of city government leaders laid out their vision for a $12 million to $15 million minor league baseball stadium and railroad museum.

Lawmakers had questions about the amount of private support.

The stadium plan will need $3 million to $5 million in private investment, which could be raised in six to nine months, Phoebus said.

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"If the private community can't come up with this, we probably won't have a stadium," he said.

Phoebus said if necessary, $15 million could be raised from the private sector through a novel process recommended by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Stadium supporters hope to use what's known as a charitable remaining trust to collect donations from across the country.

Donors would get a tax break and a monthly income until they die, at which time the donation could be spent on a stadium, he said.

Colleges and other groups have used such trusts to raise money, although one has never been used for a stadium, Phoebus said.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said stadium supporters should ask for a donation from Cal Ripken Jr., who has pledged $9 million toward a baseball academy and minor league stadium in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md. Brother Billy Ripken is married to a Hagerstown native, Munson said.

The idea of replacing Municipal Stadium has been discussed for four years. Until now, it's never gotten very far due to a lack of support from local government officials.

A plan proposed by members of the local delegation would solidify that support, said Phoebus and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.

"I was very pleased to see the kind of artful solution you came up with," Phoebus told the delegation.

The delegation is proposing doubling the hotel-motel tax to 6 percent, distributing some of the money to municipalities for economic development and tourism projects and freeing up money to pay down Washington County's water and sewer debt.

A public meeting about the plan will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at South Hagerstown High School auditorium.

Hagerstown could use its portion to pay for the stadium, or any other project the city deems worthy for economic development or tourism, lawmakers say.

The money would allow the city to borrow between $4 million and $6 million for a stadium. Stadium supporters will also ask the state to contribute $6 million to $7 million, Phoebus said.

In addition, they will ask Gov. Parris Glendening for $750,000 to start the engineering and design work, he said.

If everything falls into place, the city would borrow stadium money in the summer of 2001, said Finance Director Al Martin.

The proposed location for the stadium and museum complex is off Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown.

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