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Ballpark figures offered

June 01, 2005|by Andrew SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - It's too early to tell whether former basketball star Magic Johnson's new real estate partnership will invest in Hagerstown, an official with the Hagerstown Suns' owner said this morning.

However, Rich Neumann, the vice president of development for Mandalay Sports Entertainment, offered some insight into how a stadium might be built for the team.

Speaking at a business breakfast on the city's baseball future, Neumann said Mandalay is committed to building a stadium as part of a $100 million redevelopment of Hagerstown's east end.

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Quoting industry standards, he said the stadium might cost $25 million to $35 million and have about 5,500 to 6,500 fixed seats.

Municipal Stadium, which was built in 1930, has about 4,600 seats. Mandalay, like the Suns' past two owners, has said the stadium is outdated and needs to be replaced.

Typically, Mandalay, which owns four other minor league baseball teams, contributes about $3 million to $5 million toward the cost of a new stadium, Neumann said.

"It has to be a public-private partnership," Neumann told about 50 people at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's breakfast program at the Plaza Hotel.

During an interview afterward, Neumann said a tax increment financing district, in cooperation with the state, could help pay for a stadium. A tax would be assessed on new development in the east end district.

Mandalay Sports Entertainment is a division of a company that also makes major motion pictures.

One of its founders, Sony Pictures Entertainment's former chairman, previously worked with Johnson to help build movie theaters in urban areas.

Mandalay and Johnson recently formed a real estate partnership to revitalize urban areas, including around ballparks.

During an interview, Neumann said Johnson could draw on his own development company's urban fund to pay for joint projects with Mandalay.

There is no timetable for the partnership to decide whether to build in Hagerstown. Neumann said the partnership wanted to wait until after last month's city election, when a new mayor and two councilmembers were elected, before making any plans.

Kurt Landes, the Suns' general manager, also spoke at the breakfast about the team's economic impact to the community.

He estimated that minor league baseball in Hagerstown uses about 3,500 hotel rooms, including fans and teams.

Assuming that each person spends $150 a day, that means more than $500,000 is spent in and around Hagerstown because of baseball, he said.

Landes said the Suns employ the equivalent of about 85 full-time people during the season and have generated millions of dollars in free publicity, largely through their promotions.

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