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McClure proposes stadium summit

August 02, 2000

McClure proposes stadium summit

By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Hagerstown City Councilman J. Wallace McClure wants to hold a "stadium summit" Aug. 25 to lay out his conditions for a new minor league baseball stadium.

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McClure said that even if those proposing a $15 million stadium and railroad museum complex agree to his conditions, that wouldn't guarantee he would support the project.

"I'm not going to jump ahead. I'm not going to be backed into a corner on this. I want to keep my options open," McClure said.

McClure has been an outspoken opponent of the proposed Hagerstown Roundhouse and Sports Complex, which calls for city, county, state and private funding.

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He had pledged to lead a petition drive to take the question of city funding for the project to referendum. Last month, however, McClure said he was reconsidering that position but would not rule out leading a petition drive.

McClure said the issue could be settled in the May 2001 city election before a referendum vote could be held. He said most voters probably would vote for candidates based on their stances on the stadium.

Richard Phoebus, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium task force that proposed the stadium project, and Winston Blenckstone, owner of the Hagerstown Suns baseball team, said Wednesday they would meet with McClure if asked.

The Suns would be the primary tenant of a new stadium.

McClure did not rule out the possibility of a compromise after a July 10 meeting with Blenckstone, who has said he would sell the team if a new stadium were not built or if the matter goes to referendum.

Blenckstone and others have said they believe a new owner would move the team from Hagerstown.

McClure, in a July 16 newspaper story, asked residents to help him compile a list of conditions that would make the stadium proposal more palatable to those opposed to government funding for the project.

He estimated that 100 to 150 residents have called him since then, and said he still receives one to two calls a day on the matter.

"The overwhelming response is people still want to go to referendum," McClure said.

Under the current funding plan, the city and county governments and the private sector would contribute $3 million each toward construction, with the state contributing $6 million to the project. The city and county contributions would come through bonds taken by the city and paid off with annual contributions from both governments.

The city and county would each chip in $5 million over 20 years to pay off the bonds. The county funding would come from revenue from an increase to the county lodging tax.

McClure said that among other things, he wants the financial projections for stadium operations recalculated using a lower attendance figure. Current projections assume an average of about 3,000 fans will attend each home game, Phoebus said.

McClure said that number should be dropped to 2,000. The Suns currently draw an average of about 1,500 fans per game.

Phoebus and Blenckstone declined to comment on McClure's conditions.

"It's speculative at this point," Phoebus said.

Phoebus said it would be good to get McClure's support for the project. McClure was the lone City Council member to vote against a stadium funding plan and Phoebus said it would be easier to get funding from the state if the local elected officials were unanimous in their support for the project.

"It's always good to get as much political support as you can get," Phoebus said.

McClure said he would present his list of conditions at a summit, but wouldn't expect stadium supporters to have all the answers that day. He said it could be a good chance for them to "state their case."

McClure said the media would be invited to the summit, but was unsure whether the meeting would be open to the public because of space considerations.

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