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Stadium renovation considered

August 16, 2000

Stadium renovation considered



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer



Delay of a planned "stadium summit" is a sign the stadium task force is considering undertaking a major renovation of Municipal Stadium instead of building a new sports complex, Hagerstown City Councilman J. Wallace McClure said Wednesday.

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The summit was scheduled for Aug. 25 but Wednesday it was postponed until at least October, Hagerstown City Councilman Al Boyer said.

Boyer, the council representative on the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium task force, confirmed Wednesday night that renovation of Municipal Stadium was an option being considered.

"Anything is possible," Boyer said.

Stadium supporters are working to develop a plan that would be acceptable to the public and elected officials and would keep minor league baseball in Hagerstown, he said.

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Winston Blenckstone, owner of the Hagerstown Suns baseball team, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. Blenckstone has said he will sell the team if a new stadium is not built or if the matter goes to referendum.

McClure had requested a "stadium summit" to lay out his conditions for a proposed $15 million stadium and railroad museum complex. Even if his conditions are met, his support of the project is not guaranteed, he said.

When task force members asked to postpone the summit so they could work on a new plan, McClure said he agreed.

If the task force is considering renovating Municipal Stadium, he does not mind waiting for a plan to be developed, McClure said.

Boyer said the delay was also necessary so the task force could work on some "significant developments." He said he could not reveal the nature of those developments.

McClure said he believes questions he and others have posed about the plan to use government and private money to pay for the complex are prompting the task force to consider a major change in plans.

A news release distributed by the task force Wednesday suggests to him that a change of plans is in the works, McClure said.

The release quotes task force Chairman Richard Phoebus as saying, "We are concentrating our focus on the cost of constructing a new stadium and the condition of the current stadium to determine whether it will be financially feasible to move forward with construction of a new facility.

"As soon as we have thoroughly evaluated the cost of a new stadium and the use of the current site, we will share our recommended plan with elected officials and the community," Phoebus said in the release.

Phoebus could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Boyer said in the release, "Wally (McClure) has raised some important issues regarding the project that we need to address as part of our evaluation and plan. The task force is working hard to develop a plan that makes sense for our community, will receive widespread support from both elected officials and the public and will keep minor league baseball in Hagerstown."

Those quotes suggest to him that they are considering a major renovation to the existing stadium, McClure said.

And 90 percent of constituents who have called him have said they would prefer a renovation to a new building, he said.

A change in plans would mean that some demands and conditions McClure wanted imposed are on hold until he knows what the new plan is, he said.

Some of his conditions would remain even with a renovation because that would still mean spending government money, he said.

One likely holdover is a requirement that admission prices to games be increased, he said.

McClure was calling for parking fees of $2 to $3 at a new stadium and for increases in concession and ticket prices. Parking at Municipal Stadium is free.

McClure 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, but would not rule out, leading a petition drive.

Under the most recent 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.

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