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Elected officials split on stadium proposal

October 02, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Elected officials split on stadium proposal



Washington County Commissioners John L. Schnebly and Bert L. Iseminger want some questions answered about why the stadium task force has recommended building a new stadium at the site of the existing Municipal Stadium at a cost of about $15 million.

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Several other elected officials polled Monday said they support the task force's recommendation. The panel agreed to make the recommendation Friday during a meeting closed to the public.

The recommendation will be formally presented to the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council during an Oct. 17 joint meeting. Since the task force is an advisory board, the city or county government could reject the suggestion, Task Force Chairman Richard Phoebus said.

A major factor in the task force recommendation is cost.

It is estimated it would cost $8 million to $10 million more - or $23 million to $25 million - to build a stadium at a site other than the existing one, Phoebus said.

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Washington County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Councilmen Alfred Boyer and William M. Breichner said they support the task force's recommendation.

Bruchey said the site is fine, especially if more signs are erected to direct people to the stadium.

The plan is a good one and the owner of the Hagerstown Suns, the stadium's primary tenant, seems satisfied with it, he said.

Schnebly said one reason task force members had given for wanting to build a new stadium at a different site was that the present site wasn't good enough, especially in terms of accessibility. He said he does not understand why they're now saying that site is fine.

"So in that respect I'm not as enthusiastic as some others on hearing that news," he said.

People traveling to the stadium from outside Washington County have to hunt for the ballpark, he said.

Iseminger also said he would like the task force to explain why the Municipal Stadium site is acceptable in light of the panel's previous criticism.

"At this point I have more questions than I have answers," he said. Task force members should be prepared to answer questions at the joint meeting, he said.

Iseminger said he wants to hear the task force's presentation before he takes a position on the site selection.

Schnebly said he would suggest that task force members investigate whether the design plans for the stadium could be changed to lower the cost of construction at an alternate site.

Hagerstown Councilman J. Wallace McClure also expressed concern about the apparent change of opinion about the present stadium site.

He said, however, he likes the idea of using the present stadium site because doing so would eliminate his concern that if a stadium were built at another site, taxpayers would end up subsidizing not one, but two stadium sites.

To get his support, the task force would need to dramatically cut the estimated $15 million cost, he said.

Unless he sees strong support for the site, he will continue to believe a referendum on the issue is appropriate, McClure said.

Commissioner William J. Wivell, who opposes taxpayer spending for a stadium, said he supports a referendum but won't lead the effort.

As with the other considered sites, Bruchey said any city ordinances to issue bonds to pay for a new stadium can be brought to a referendum.

He said he wouldn't lead a referendum but he wouldn't oppose it.

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