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Stadium vote could come soon, 2 commissioners undecided

October 17, 2000

Stadium vote could come soon, 2 commissioners undecided



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Two Washington County Commissioners remained undecided on whether to support a $15 million plan to build a new baseball stadium at Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium, after a nearly two-hour presentation and discussion of the plan Tuesday.

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But those undecided commissioners, John L. Schnebly and Bert L. Iseminger, will probably have to make up their minds soon.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the commissioners will vote within the next two to three weeks on whether to support the $15 million plan, which calls for $3 million in county funding.

If Schnebly or Iseminger vote against the plan, it could kill the project because a majority of commissioners would then be opposed to it.

Commissioner William J. Wivell and Snook said they would vote against the project.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz supports county spending for a new baseball stadium.

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Richard Phoebus, chairman of a task force proposing the stadium project, said majorities of both the commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council are needed in order to get funding for the project.

Phoebus said the council and commissioners need to vote on the stadium proposal "prior to or very early in" the upcoming state legislative session, to get state funding. The legislative session begins in January.

A majority of City Council members said Tuesday they support the plan.

Presenting the stadium plan to a joint meeting of the commissioners and City Council on Tuesday were Phoebus, Kim McCalla of the Maryland Stadium Authority and Steven Boyd of the architectural firm that studied and designed the latest proposal.

The $15 million plan calls for demolishing the existing grandstand and some surrounding structures and building a new grandstand, luxury boxes, administrative offices, concessions and restrooms at Municipal Stadium.

The existing clubhouse building, a concessions and restroom building behind the third-base line and nearby picnic pavilion would remain under the plan.

To pay for the project, Phoebus said they are planning for $6 million total from the city and county, $6 million from the state and $3 million from private sources.

The Hagerstown Suns, the primary tenant of Municipal Stadium, would contribute $500,000.

To fund stadium operations, the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, would pay rent in the rebuilt stadium. Rent would start at $45,000 a year and increase by $5,000 every five years.

Also, 15 percent of the money from ticket sales would go toward stadium operations.

The $15 million plan includes $1.5 million to $1.7 million to solve occasional flooding problems at the stadium by redirecting a stormwater stream.

Under the plan presented Tuesday, the number of parking spaces would not significantly increase. Basketball and tennis courts adjacent to the ballpark would be turned into parking spaces, but those spaces would be offset by the spaces lost by expanding the front gate almost to Memorial Boulevard.

Phoebus said there are possibly 400 to 600 parking spaces nearby, but he would not elaborate.

Most supporters of a new stadium had hoped to build on land along Interstate 81.

When it was expected that a stadium would be built at a new site, the City Council and commissioners conditionally pledged up to $3 million for the project. They also paid $310,000 toward the study that produced the latest plan.

Tuesday, Phoebus said estimates for sites near the highway were $22 million to $26 million. He said even a $20 million stadium plan is too expensive for the community.

"It's the cost that has gotten us here to large measure," Phoebus said about the choice to build at the current stadium site.

Phoebus said the stadium plan could be the "linchpin" in a long-range redevelopment of that neighborhood.

"I need to do some soul searching. I question whether it makes sense to invest $15 million on that site," Iseminger said.

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