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Suns owner confirms discussions about possible move

June 25, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Suns owner Andrew Rayburn on Monday confirmed that he is talking with officials in other cities about the possibility of moving his baseball team.

Rayburn said his first choice is to keep the Suns in Hagerstown, but only if a new stadium is built here.

"Some government officials and some private officials" from other cities have been calling Rayburn to see if he will move the team, he said. Until a few weeks ago, Rayburn wasn't returning those phone calls but now he is, he said.

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Those talks "would pave the way for a potential move" of the Suns, Rayburn said.

He would not identify the two or three cities he said the talks have involved.

Rayburn said the Suns probably will play in Hagerstown next season, but "it's up in the air after that."

"Our first choice is to play in Hagerstown," he said.

Rayburn had hired a consultant to work on a stadium plan for Hagerstown. But Rayburn said Monday the consultant is no longer working for him because he could not justify the expense of the consultant.

Rayburn said he hopes to meet with Hagerstown officials soon to discuss a possible stadium plan.

Washington County Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz on Friday said Rayburn was talking to officials in other cities interested in the Suns.

Swartz, a supporter of building a new stadium for the Suns in Hagerstown, said he believes the Suns will leave Hagerstown if there is no plan for a new stadium by the beginning of next season.

In April, Rayburn said he hoped to have a proposed site and a funding plan for a new Hagerstown stadium sometime this summer. He said a funding plan would call for money from the state, county and Hagerstown governments, as well as the private sector.

Past efforts to secure government funding for a new Hagers-town baseball stadium have been unsuccessful.

The Suns are a Class A South Atlantic League affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The team plays its home games at Municipal Stadium.

Swartz said it is important to keep minor league baseball in Hagerstown. As an economic development tool, the Suns make Hagerstown a more attractive community to companies looking for a place to locate, Swartz said.

The Suns also add to the quality of life of area residents, he said.

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