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North stadium funding is discussed

December 10, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The possibility of using funds from the county's hotel-motel tax to help build a proposed $3.1 million athletic complex at North Hagerstown High School was neither endorsed nor rejected by city and county officials who met with the Washington County Board of Education Tuesday.

John Williamson, chairman of fund raising for the North High stadium project, told members of the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council Tuesday morning in a joint meeting with the School Board that the stadium committee hired a fund-raising consultant. The consultant advised the committee to look into government funding for the project, in addition to seeking community donations, he said.

North High, the largest school in the county, and South Hagerstown High School currently share School Stadium, which was built at South High in 1957 and since has been shared by the schools. Members of the stadium committee said the growing number of athletic programs at both schools has taken a toll on the field.

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Williamson said North High is one of two schools in the state that does not have its own stadium.

The proposed athletic complex, which would be to the southeast of the school where an unused driver's education parking lot currently is located, would include a field to accommodate football, soccer and lacrosse, a three-level press box/ticket stand, concession stands, restrooms, four banks of stadium lights and a wall of fame. The complex also would include a track, a field house and a parking lot, said Greg Slick, chairman of the stadium committee.

Architectural fees would be figured into the $3.1 million price tag, Slick said.

Williamson said more than 500 surveys have been sent out to north-end community members soliciting their opinions on fund raising.

"The public does expect some government contribution," he said.

County Commissioner Doris J. Nipps asked Williamson whether other high schools, which have stadiums that were built with School Board funds, question the large scale of the proposed North High stadium project. She said other county high schools have raised money through booster clubs to build restrooms and locker rooms for their stadiums.

Williamson said North High doesn't have a stadium and added, "At some point, we have an obligation to build what we say we're going to build."

But he said the stadium committee does not want to compete with other projects slated by the school system for funding. School Board Member Bernadette M. Wagner reiterated that when the School Board approved the stadium concept proposal last fall, it agreed not to use School Board general funds toward the stadium, but said it would seek funds from other government sources.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said for every dollar available from the hotel-motel tax, there are two to three requests for the money.

"The hotel-motel tax is earmarked for economic development in the county," he said.

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis Metzner said the stadium would benefit city students almost exclusively and should be considered as economic development.

"We'll spend more money to research a professional team than we would to contribute to one of our schools," Metzner said.

School Board Vice President Roxanne R. Ober said the county has given money from the hotel-motel tax to recreational committees such as the Hagerstown Soccer Club, which she said is no different from contributing to a school stadium.

Snook said if the county uses hotel-motel tax funds for the stadium, the facility would have to be open to the general public.

Williamson said the committee has offered use of the stadium to St. Maria Goretti High School, a private school in the north end, but has not yet received definite feedback.

He said the committee will know by January whether it will be able to raise enough funds for the project.

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