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Task force advises building on existing sit

September 29, 2000

Task force advises building on existing sit



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


In an "enthusiastically unanimous" decision, Hagerstown's stadium task force on Friday agreed to recommend building a new stadium at the site of the existing Municipal Stadium at a cost of about $15 million, Task Force Chairman Richard Phoebus said.

The cost of building at that site is estimated at $8 million to $10 million less than at two alternative sites, Phoebus said following a 90-minute closed task force meeting Friday.

The task force will ask the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council to support the new recommendation during an Oct. 17 joint meeting, Phoebus said.

Since the task force, a subcommittee of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, is an advisory board, the city or county could reject its suggestion.

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Suns Owner Winston Blenckstone said the plan presented Friday meets his goal of getting a new ballpark.

"We are in full support of what they are doing," he said.

While the existing site won't offer the visibility of an alternate site near the interstate, a new stadium would immediately boost fan attendance, Blenckstone said. Studies bear out that prediction, he said.

"We are just glad something is going forward," he said.

Phoebus said the goal is to begin construction at the end of next year's baseball season and finish it in time for the following season's opening.

To do that, state funding will have to be secured during the legislative session that begins in January, he said.

A major factor in the task force's decision was the estimated difference in cost between that site and two other sites under consideration - along Wesel Boulevard near the intersection with Burhans Boulevard, and behind the Centre at Hagerstown near the U.S. 40 and Interstate 81 interchange.

Two estimates for the Centre site projected a cost of more than $20 million, Phoebus said.

"That is just not appropriate for this community," he said.

Stadium fund-raising, which has been on hold pending a decision on a plan, will now resume, Phoebus said.

The relatively new pavilion and one-story office building would be kept, but the grandstand would be replaced. Plans are also being developed to find additional parking in the vicinity of Municipal Stadium, he said.

"We will have a modern, state-of-the-art baseball stadium," Phoebus said.

It is not yet known what the level of involvement of the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum would be at the recommended site, Phoebus said.

The change is intended in part to spark redevelopment in the area of the city near Municipal Stadium, Phoebus said.

Another factor in the decision was that a state bill providing money for the stadium required a new stadium plan take into consideration the future use of Municipal Stadium, Phoebus said. This plan accomplishes that.

The Suns, a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, would be the primary tenant of the stadium.

Allegheny Energy would need to reevaluate its offer to pay $1 million for stadium naming rights if the stadium is built at the current site, spokesman Guy Fletcher said Friday.

When offering the naming rights, Allegheny had two requirements: That the stadium be highly visible, preferably from an interstate, and that it be inside the company service area, Fletcher said.

Neither would be true at Municipal Stadium, he said.

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