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Bureau wants to study need for facility

February 02, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A local tourism agency plans to conduct a study of whether a 3,000- to 6,000-seat multipurpose event and convention center would be a good fit in Washington County.

"All it is is an idea," Ben Hart, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Friday.

The convention center would be a single facility where events such as concerts and athletic activities would take place, Hart said.

Hart said the visitors bureau will apply for a grant from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development that would pay for up to 70 percent of the cost of the feasibility study.

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It's likely the study will include focus groups to help determine the demand, size and cost of a center as well as three possible locations for such a facility, Hart said.

Hart will ask the Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday to pass a resolution endorsing the application for the grant.

The endorsement is needed to apply for funding.

Officials at the Convention and Visitors Bureau hope to receive bids for the study by the end of February. Hart said the study will take about 120 days, with completion expected in mid-summer.

"It'll be a neat project for the county," Hart said.

He said if the study finds there's a demand for a convention center, the next step would be to figure out how to pay for the facility.

"But you can't do that until you know how much it's going to cost," Hart said.

County Commissioner John C. Munson said a convention center would be nice for the county, as long as it was privately funded. He said he would not support building the facility with county dollars.

Economic Development Commission Director Tim Troxell said a convention center has the potential to be a draw in Washington County.

"It's something that we're supportive of investigating," Troxell said.

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