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Officials weigh Suns' changes

September 14, 2000

Officials weigh Suns' changes



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


An affiliation change announced this week by the Hagerstown Suns will remove two objections fans have voiced about the team's Toronto Blue Jays affiliation, but it won't necessarily affect efforts to build a new stadium, two supporters said Wednesday.

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Suns owner Winston Blenckstone said Tuesday he has signed a two-year player development agreement with the San Francisco Giants organization, effective with the 2001 baseball season.

The move ends his 14-year affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays organization, an American League team.

Some residents have said they did not support the Suns or attend games because of the team's Canadian connection, said Richard Phoebus, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce stadium task force, and Hagerstown Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, the city's representative on the task force.

"A lot of people called them foreigners," Boyer said.

Some said they could not support the Suns because the Blue Jays are in the same league as the Orioles and they don't want to help a team that competes with the Baltimore team, Boyer and Phoebus said.

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The Giants are in the National League.

"It takes those two straw men out of the picture," Phoebus said. "It's a positive move and it's beneficial."

Boyer said he would like to think an affiliation change will increase game attendance but doubts that will be the case.

Naysayers looking for a reason not to attend the games will find new excuses, he said.

The change also may have no noticeable effect on the push for a new stadium or on fund-raising efforts, Boyer and Phoebus said.

The drive for a new stadium is about the cultural benefits related to such a facility and the new affiliation doesn't change that, Phoebus said.

Phoebus and Suns General Manager David Blenckstone, son of Winston Blenckstone, said the affiliation change doesn't affect the possibility a new stadium might be built at the some site as Municipal Stadium rather than at another site.

The task force is exploring construction of a new stadium on the site of the existing Municipal Stadium, not a renovation of it, Phoebus said.

The task force and the Suns have not yet endorsed that plan.

In order for the idea to work, building a stadium at the existing site would have to be "significantly" less expensive than the cost of building a stadium at another site, Phoebus said. There is no cost estimate yet but he said it would have to be "millions" cheaper for it to be considered as a serious possibility.

The parking area at the stadium also would have to be enlarged, and that situation is being investigated, he said.

A stadium update will be given at Tuesday's joint meeting of the Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners but Phoebus won't be there because of an out-of-town commitment. The time for that presentation has not been set.

David Blenckstone is more optimistic about what the affiliation change will mean in terms of a new stadium.

"I think it will help. It will be an indication to people that we are doing anything we can to get a new facility built here," he said.

The affiliation change is the team's way of saying it will do what is needed to get more community support and the hope is the community will reciprocate, he said.

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