Suns extend deadline

April 05, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Leaders of an effort to get a new baseball stadium in Hagerstown will not deliver a funding plan in time to meet a Friday deadline set by Hagerstown Suns owner Winston Blenckstone.

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Blenckstone said Wednesday that he's willing to extend the deadline for a funding plan, which is expected to be finalized within a couple of weeks.

Richard Phoebus, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium task force, said an announcement of a potential location and funding plan for a stadium could be made April 14, or soon thereafter.

The task force is leading the push for a proposed $12 million to $15 million Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex, a combination baseball stadium and railroad museum. The Suns would be the primary tenant of a new stadium.


"We're going to extend our so-called deadline to work with the (task force)," Blenckstone said.

Last month, Blenckstone held a press conference to announce that unless a funding plan for a new stadium was in place by April 7, he would try to sell the team.

"We are shooting for next Friday. ... It could take longer but not much longer," Phoebus said about an announcement.

"The deadline was used ... to say 'get something done,'" Phoebus said.

Phoebus said that before a funding plan announcement can be made, the Maryland General Assembly must pass a proposed hotel tax increase. Some of the money from a proposed doubling of the county's lodging tax is expected to be used as the Washington County government's contribution toward a new stadium.

"Now the county has no funds to talk about," Phoebus said.

If the tax hike is approved, Hagerstown and county officials would meet to finalize a stadium funding plan, Phoebus said.

Phoebus said he wants to announce a funding plan and a location for a proposed stadium at the same time.

He said site negotiations are ongoing. Potential sites include land along Interstates 70 and 81 and along Wesel Boulevard near the intersection with Burhans Boulevard.

Phoebus said an area along Interstate 81 is more likely to be the chosen site. It would be on land that is either in Hagerstown or next to the city line and able to be annexed. Phoebus would not be more specific.

Phoebus said Blenckstone is aware of "every detail" and has been willing to work with the task force.

Blenckstone said he is willing to wait for the task force to present a funding plan. "But it could be useless unless the (state) delegation gets involved," he said.

"Even if the county and city come together we need to hear from the (state) delegation," Blenckstone said.

"They're going to have to get a commitment for state support," Blenckstone said.

A combination of state, county, city and private contributions would pay for construction of a new stadium.

Blenckstone said he was unsure how long he would wait to hear whether the state would contribute to the project.

"Basically I would be extending the deadline," he said.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said a funding plan supported by the city and county would not receive automatic support from the local legislative delegation.

"We'll review it. ... We have to see their plan," Munson said.

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