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Boosters root for stadium contributions

April 06, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - "No more bus! No more bus!"

Rick Toms pounded the podium as he urged the audience to chant along.

He was one of about 200 people at North Hagerstown High School on Tuesday evening to root, root, root for a home stadium.

The hourlong gathering had the elements and feel of a pep rally, including a band, cheerleaders, balloons and a motivational speaker: former Washington Redskins defensive end Charles Mann.

North High Boosters Club Inc. is leading the push to build a stadium for the school, which has used South Hagerstown High School, 3 miles away, for home football and soccer games and track meets.

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The stadium cost has been estimated at $2.3 million. Committee Chairman John Williamson said Tuesday that almost $1.5 million has been raised.

Although the stadium committee has hoped to rely on private donations, it also has approached government officials for funding.

In an upbeat video shown during Tuesday's rally, North High Principal Robert T. "Bo" Myers said the stadium - which will be named after the late Mike Callas - will have about 3,500 seats.

A concession building, a track and a field house are part of the project.

Students in the audience cheered as they recognized Myers, classmates and teachers interviewed in the video.

Toms, who was in the video, also spoke in person. His voice shook slightly as he talked about his son, Brent, a senior, never getting a chance to kick a field goal or an extra point at home.

"It is hard to have a homecoming game when you're not really home," said Tracy Hinkle, the Student Government Association president.

North High senior Dean Staley, a football player, said his team's successful season in the fall "would have been 10 times more exciting" if the home games truly were at home.

Diane Cauffman, a band and football mother, said parents can't stock South High's concession stand until the day of the game, which means hauling ice in coolers.

Rick Hill, the vice president of the boosters club, asked parents in the audience to pledge $200 a year for five years, if they can.

"Look into your heart," he said. "Look into your child's eyes and ask, 'What can I give?'"

If $200 is too much, Hill said, for $100 a year for five years, a donor can put his or her name on a stadium seat.

After the rally, Williamson said similar events will be held, to ensure "eyeball to eyeball" contact between the stadium committee and the public.

During an earlier telephone interview, Williamson said individual donors want the committee to ask for public money. "A common theme that people tell us: 'You've got to get the government involved,'" he said.

The committee is doing just that.

The Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly has requested a $200,000 bond loan from the state.

The Washington County Board of Education has included $200,000 for the stadium in its capital improvement program budget.

After a discussion Tuesday afternoon, the Hagerstown City Council agreed to look into finding ways to help pay for the stadium project. The council is considering its 2005-06 fiscal year budget.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner offered to put the stadium project on the city's list of Program Open Space projects, which would be eligible for state grants. He also recommended low- or no-interest loans.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said the city can do better than loans for a project that would "directly benefit our children."

Staff writer Gregory T. Simmons contributed to this story.

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