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Stadium hopes dim

Majority of commissioners oppose county funding

Majority of commissioners oppose county funding

November 07, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns' hopes of building a new baseball stadium and remaining in Washington County may have crashed with Tuesday's election, as the majority of the five Republican candidates elected to serve as County Commissioners have said they oppose using tax dollars to pay for the stadium.

Without a new stadium, Suns owner Andrew Rayburn has said he'll likely move the team to another city.

"I would think it would be difficult, but possible, but unlikely," Rayburn said Wednesday of the chances of a stadium being built without county funding.

Rayburn confirmed a few months ago that he has spoken with other cities about moving the team.

Paul L. Swartz, one of the two outgoing commissioners, said that the outcome of Tuesday's election killed any chances of the county being involved in funding for a new stadium.

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"It's dead," Swartz said. "There's no way of reviving it. They might as well come to realize it."

Swartz said he doesn't think there's any way to change the minds of the majority of the newly elected commissioners on the stadium.

"Baseball will be leaving and another quality of life has been taken from Washington County," Swartz said.

Incumbent Republicans Gregory I. Snook and William J. Wivell were re-elected Tuesday. They will be joined by Republicans James F. Kercheval, John C. Munson and Doris J. Nipps, according to complete but unofficial results.

Snook, Wivell and Munson said the county shouldn't be involved with funding a stadium, while Nipps said a stadium should not be paid for with county operating dollars.

"If the owner of a baseball team would like to have a new stadium, they would need to come forward with money and private revenue to support that," Nipps said.

Kercheval said he would support a county-funded stadium if the proposal is reasonable and affordable and funded through a hotel/motel tax revenue.

Swartz and fellow outgoing Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said they supported funding the stadium with hotel/motel tax dollars.

Iseminger said Wednesday he didn't know whether the project would die or remain an issue.

Rayburn said he doesn't yet know how much the county may be asked to contribute, but that he would like to sit down with the new board and discuss stadium funding during the upcoming season.

Rayburn said he knows that funding is limited in the Hagerstown-Washington County area and that other funding priorities exist, but having a baseball team in town is also important.

"We're playing ball next year, and we will look forward to getting to know the new commissioners," Rayburn said. "We'll keep talking."

Munson said Wednesday he would never support a county-funded stadium.

"I don't think it helps for our economic development," Munson said Wednesday. "I'm not in favor of it and I won't vote for it."

He said he didn't have anything against the stadium, but that tax dollars should not pay for it.

"I've never been to a ball game in my life," Munson said. "I only go to NASCAR races. My brother has been in Little League, and I hardly ever went to see him."

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