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Current stadium offered in deal

May 03, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium may be traded, along with cash, for land for a new stadium, a representative of the private trusts that own the property behind the new Centre at Hagerstown said Wednesday.

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Whether any deal is finalized depends on appraisals being done on both properties, the trust representative and stadium supporters said.

Land behind the shopping plaza, near the U.S. 40 and Interstate 81 interchange, is the preferred site for a new $15 million stadium complex.

Vincent Groh, a Hagerstown property owner and a trustee for the private trusts that own the land, was cautious when asked about the possibility the existing stadium would be included in any sale.

"It depends on the appraisal. ... I don't know if the trust would want to get involved" with Municipal Stadium, Groh said.

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Groh said if Municipal Stadium were shown to be a bad investment, the trustees wouldn't take it in any land deal. Groh said he can be held personally responsible by the beneficiaries of the trusts, which were set up by his father, Garland Groh, to benefit future generations of relatives.

"It's not my money," Groh said.

City Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, a supporter of a new Hagerstown stadium, said including the city-owned stadium in any purchase deal "would be extremely desirable."

To use Washington County hotel tax dollars toward construction of a new baseball stadium, the city must have a plan for Municipal Stadium, according to the bill that increased the hotel tax to 6 percent. Some hotel tax proceeds would be used to fund the county government's contribution toward construction of a stadium complex, under the latest proposal.

Groh and Boyer said Municipal Stadium and the property behind the Centre at Hagerstown are being appraised. The appraisals likely will determine how expensive the land will be, whether Municipal Stadium might be included in a sale, and ultimately whether any sale would happen.

"Everything hinges on the appraisals," Boyer said.

According to figures presented Tuesday by Richard Phoebus, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the land for the stadium is expected to cost $2 million, at $50,000 per acre for 40 acres. There was no mention of Municipal Stadium being included in any land deal on Tuesday.

The $2 million cost is included in the $15 million estimate for building the Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex, which is proposed to include a stadium and railroad museum.

The actual price of the land will be determined after the appraisal is done, he said.

Boyer said the figure was "just a guess ... a gut feeling."

Phoebus said the $50,000 per acre figure was a "semi-educated" guess.

"There's no final agreement on that. It depends on the appraisal," he said.

If the appraisal shows the land will cost more than $50,000 an acre, "maybe we'll have to look at other sites," Phoebus said.

Other sites, including nearby land adjacent to Salem Avenue and Interstate 81 which is also owned by a Groh trust, "are still a possibility but we're focusing on the new site," Phoebus said.

The appraisal is being done by a private appraiser who is donating his time toward the stadium effort, said Phoebus, who declined to say who the appraiser is.

Phoebus said any purchase option on the property probably wouldn't be finalized for at least 30 days.

On Tuesday, the Hagerstown City Council approved contributing $120,000 toward preconstruction architectural and engineering work for the proposed stadium complex.

The council also pledged to contribute $250,000 a year for 20-30 years toward stadium construction. Future votes on the matter would be needed before this money is spent.

The County Commissioners are expected to vote next Tuesday on similar proposals. One difference is that the county contribution toward the preconstruction work is proposed to be $190,000. Three of the five commissioners have said they will vote for the proposals.

Under the latest stadium funding plan, the city and county would contribute $3 million each, $6 million would come from the state and $3 million would be raised in private contributions.

The city and county annual contributions would be used to pay off bonds taken to fund stadium construction.

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