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Winston Blenckstone

Q&A -

May 18, 2000



Winston R. Blenckstone is owner of the Hagerstown Suns, a Class A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Blenckstone, 56, first bought the team in 1986 when it was located in Florence, N.C., and moved it near his Myrtle Beach, S.C., home for the 1987 season. The team won two South Atlantic League championships while playing at Coastal Carolina College in nearby Conway, S.C.

He moved the team to Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown for the 1993 season after he couldn't get a new stadium in Myrtle Beach.

"Based on studies you've read, what do you expect the attendance would be at a new ballpark?"

"Well, our best estimate is that the attendance rise would be anywhere between two and two and a half to three times what it is now. ... We're sort of projecting anywhere between 200 and 250 (thousand) - I'd say that would be what we would expect per year. ... Right now we're averaging about one, 105 to 115 in any given year."

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"What impact would that attendance have on the community financially and otherwise?"

"I don't know whether it would be on the community - but the impact it will have on revenues will be twofold. We've basically worked out a lease agreement with the city, that they would get a certain percentage of ticket sales. In other words, the more tickets you sell, the more revenues the (Maryland) Stadium Authority is going to have. So, it's a good marriage, so to speak, between the ball club and owner of the stadium ... where the more tickets you sell, the more revenues you produce for the city, or for the authority - whoever that authority is, and I'm not sure about that yet. The second answer to that question is, the more tickets sales you have, the more employees you have to have to employ in the ballpark to handle the volume of people coming in, so therefore the trickle-down effect throughout the community is considerable. There's some seven times turnover - four times turnover of inside dollars, seven times turnover of outside dollars."

"Would there be some other spillover into the community, in terms of just more people coming into the community, the economic impact?"

"Yeah, well, obviously the more people that we have enter the ballpark means that a certain percentage of those are going to be people from outside the area so, yes, there'll be a lot more people coming in from outside the area."

"Could we be in a new park by opening day 2002?"

"Not the way it's set up now. (Laughs.) Unfortunately, we lost another year to the General Assembly this year, because nothing was finalized here locally, so I'd say, outside shot from what I've been told, would be 2003."

"What can the private citizen do to help keep this plan for a new stadium on the fast track?"

"Well, I would hope that the private citizen could just be positive about looking forward to a new facility. We certainly are going to be looking to educate our fan base on the advantages of having a new facility versus Municipal Stadium. I think the average fan, we'd like them to get a little more involved in Suns baseball. It seems like there's been a hiatus of the community that want to really come out here night in and night out, and we understand the reasons why. The reasons why, basically, we feel, is the facility. But we hope that the announcement of the stadium project will spur some new enthusiasm within the community."

"Do you think the public supports a publicly financed stadium?"

"Well, that's a question that would be hard for me to answer. It seems as if some places where a public referendum has been put forth ... the public is generally saying no to questions like that. But, the ironic thing is, once the stadiums are built, everybody seems to love them. ... There are some communities that do support projects like this; there are some communities that don't. So, I'm not sure where Hagerstown would end up, or where Washington County would end up on that."

"How much money are you losing with the Suns, and do you really expect a new stadium to eliminate the Suns' financial deficit?"

"Well, I've never divulged our financial situation here; as a private businessman, I have the right not to. But I will say publicly, we don't make money operating here, never have. I don't believe the old owners ever made money here. However, we are ... so close to turning at least a small profit here that obviously the addition of a new ballpark would make a struggling business a healthy business."

"How do you plan to market a new stadium?"

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