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A new stadium on the old site: Task force idea raises questions

October 04, 2000

A new stadium on the old site: Task force idea raises questions



Faced with enormous costs for site preparation at two alternate locations, the Hagerstown task force considering a new home for the Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball team has decided that the club's old address may be the best choice. Before moving forward, however, the task force needs to answer several important questions.

The first is how traffic will be funneled in and out of the site. The rationale for seeking a location along one of the interstate highways was that, in addition to increasing the stadium's visibility, it would also make it easier for out-of-town fans to get in and out. Drawing those fans is essential to the team's success, and if traffic doesn't move smoothly along U.S. 40, fans will find other things to do.

The second question is how the team will be marketed. That might seem to be the responsibility of the Suns' management, but because a considerable amount of public money is going to be placed at risk, the public and its elected representatives deserve some input.

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The third and perhaps most important question is the structure of the lease. In the first one signed by the Suns, there was an escape clause which said that if the Suns didn't hit certain attendance targets after a number of years, then the team wasn't obligated to stay.

We can't imagine the Suns' owners would forego such a clause, because without it, they'd be commiting themselves to stay in Hagerstown whether or not they were making any money. But the targets have to be realistic, especially for the first few years.

We believe that over time, with proper promotion, the Suns' fan base will grow, as more and more people discover this affordable type of family entertainment.

But building that base will take time, and until it's done, all those who've said that the team is one more amenity that adds to the quality of life here must find a way to support the Suns, preferably by buying tickets.

Without that support, the area will face yet another rescue effort, several years down the road.

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