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Hopes fade for new stadium

November 28, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Hopes fade for new stadium



It would be pointless to spend more time on a proposal to build a baseball stadium when the city and county governments aren't providing enough support for the project, Stadium Task Force Chairman Richard Phoebus said Monday.

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Asked if the project were dead, he replied, "I don't know why anyone would consider it alive."

"If we could see that there was a strong political will to do this, well, then I think it could proceed," Phoebus said.

"But I don't see that either at the state delegation level and certainly not at the County Commissioner level or the political will of the City Council."

Last Wednesday, Hagerstown City Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said in a press release that plans to build a new stadium at the site of the existing Municipal Stadium were "unrealistic."

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Boyer, the city representative on the stadium task force, said the task force was not considering other sites.

The total cost of building a new baseball stadium at the site of the existing Municipal Stadium site increased from $15 million to $18 million, in part because Commissioners Bert L. Iseminger and John L. Schnebly said adjacent property would have to be purchased if they were to support the project, Phoebus said.

David Blenckstone, the manager of the Hagerstown Suns baseball team, said Monday he was "not concerned but disappointed. We are committed to this community."

"I would say it's a setback. It's not the first setback we've ever experienced," he said.

Blenckstone refused to speculate on whether the Suns would stay beyond the present one-year stadium lease.

Schnebly said last week that before he heard Boyer's statement he had planned to call stadium supporters to tell them he couldn't support the project.

Iseminger said he couldn't support the project if the city wasn't fully supporting it.

Based on what he's heard, he is pessimistic about the project's future, Iseminger said.

"I'd say the project is not going to go forward," Iseminger said. "We're not going to commit anything until all the pieces are in place."

Iseminger said he wants the Hagerstown City Council to take a formal vote on the issue.

The support of both Iseminger and Schnebly was needed in order for the county to commit $3 million to the project. Only Commissioner Paul L. Swartz had openly supported pledging money to the current plan. The city also was supposed to pledge $3 million.

Between Boyer's announcement and Schnebly's comments, it's clear the project no longer has the needed city and county government support, Phoebus said Monday. Without that support, it can't proceed, he said.

While the task force has been working on the project for a few years, "there has never been any really strong political commitment to it," Phoebus said.

He and the task force needed financial support from the government before it can get private donations.

"It does look like a nail's going in the coffin every day," Swartz said.

But he thinks the task force should collect pledges of financial support and not be discouraged by the actions of the city and the county.

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