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Funding the stadium is as easy as E=mc2

February 10, 2000

Funding the stadium is as easy as E=mc2

When I didn't know the answer to the teacher's question in grade school, which was about 93 percent of the time, I would always get called on, no matter how low I would slump down behind my desk.

When I did know the answer and would wave my arm like a south Florida palm in a hurricane, I never got called on once.

Why teachers insisted on this course of behavior and refused to put their buckets down anything but dry wells, I cannot say. If farmers were like teachers, they would leave the cows out in the field and bring the steers into the barn for milking. Then they would sit around the Farmers Lounge smoking cigarettes and fretting about the future of the American dairy industry.

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Today I am noticing an unsettling parallel; I know the answer to the stadium funding gap. But no one is calling on me for the answer.

(But before I begin, can I tell you how a normal community would build a new baseball stadium? In a normal community, the city and county each would have floated a $3 million bond, which is a relatively small amount in capital improvement terms and would not have increased taxes. Then a normal community would have built a normal baseball stadium on the interstate - just a baseball stadium, No business parks, no soccer fields, no museums, no trampoline acts - just a stadium. A normal community would have initiated this four years ago when the cost of the whole project would have been $8 million, not $15 million, and this spring we would be watching the Suns in their new home.

What in the name of Willie Mays was so hard about this scenario that Washington County politicians couldn't seem to wrap their brains around?)

Sorry, I just had to say that.

Anyway, under a formula that makes the Theory of Relativity look like instructions on a package of brown-and-serve dinner rolls, the Washington County delegation would, among other things, raise the hotel tax from 3 percent to 6 percent, which would raise an extra $369,000 a year. Of that, the city of Hagerstown would receive $283,000 for a stadium, which is $37,000 short of the amount it needs to make bleachers meet.

But in a weird move, the delegation would also divide $86,000 of the pot among the county's other eight towns.

Why? Are they building stadiums, too?

The delegation says it's in the interest of fairness. Since the room tax is supposed to promote tourism throughout the county, it wouldn't be right for Hagerstown to get the whole pot. So each small town will get between $2,000 and $20,000 to spend as it wishes on "tourism."

So what's Sharpsburg going to do, use the cash to buy big signs that say "Attention All Tourists: Keep Out."

To me, the delegation is sowing the tiny mustard seeds of bureaucracy. You know how these things work.

First the towns will use the money to hire a part-time tourism director. Then part time will become full time. Then the director will need a tourism office to work out of. And if you have an office, you definitely need a desk, phone, copier, computer and fax machine.

And how can one director be expected to keep all this equipment running without a little part-time help from an administrative assistant? And with two people, they will need larger quarters. And a custodian. Then a comprehensive plan, marketing strategy, blue ribbon tourism committees and a half-dozen consultant studies recommending a convention center.

You laugh, but this is exactly how the U.S. Commerce Department got started. Congress needed somebody to write a thank-you note to the Chilean customs agent and next thing you know they're negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.

So my point is this: $283,000 + $86,000 = $369,000.

$369,000 > $320,000. Funding gap solved. Any questions?




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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