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High schools pay a little more for Municipal Stadium experience

April 23, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Despite a $200 cost increase from years past to use Municipal Stadium for the Diamond Classic against rival South Hagerstown on April 14, North Hagerstown athletic director Marcia Nissel has no complaints.

"It went well. I couldn't complain," Nissel said. "It was a great night, we had a decent crowd, I made money and we didn't have anyone complain. The only bad thing was the weather.

"It's a North-South game, and any way you look at it, it usually brings in money. We didn't make as much on it this year, but enough to pay the bills. And we'll do it again."

Here's a fact that may or may not give Nissel and other county athletic directors comfort: Of the $200 increase that took effect this year, $150 should have been charged all along, according to Lewie Thomas, the recreation facilities coordinator for the City of Hagerstown's office of community affairs.

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According to Thomas and Hagerstown Suns general manager Will Smith, in previous years, high schools hosting games at Municipal Stadium paid $225 to the Hagerstown Suns and $50 to the city if the lights were used.

When the city and the Suns renewed their lease agreement through 2009 late last year, it was discovered that the user agreement called for a $150 leasing fee to be paid to the city any time a team other than the Suns used the stadium -- a fee the city had been failing to collect.

"I don't know exactly who was responsible for seeing that the agreement was followed, but now all we're doing is following the agreement," Thomas said. "When it came to light, it was like, we should have been getting fees for anyone other than the Suns using the stadium.

"We haven't changed any structure in the fees, that's what it should have been all along. It just wasn't being followed. When the Suns signed the new agreement with the city, we got all that straightened out."

This year, high schools hosting games at the stadium are paying $150 to the city for use of the stadium, plus $100 for use of the lights. The Suns have kept their fee at $225 -- making the cost $475 in all.

The Suns' fee covers numerous maintenance chores, including the cost of preparing the playing field, use of the clubhouse and the batting cages, and the cleanup after the game.

"We could charge more, but we didn't want to raise it," Smith said. "For $225, it's a lot of work and kind of a headache when working as many games as we are. ... (But) we said, 'This could get costly (for the high schools), so we're not going to increase our maintenance and service fees, we'll keep them the same.'"

Smith said he enjoys having the Diamond Classic and other high school games at Municipal Stadium.

"I think when we started (the Diamond Classic) five years ago, we got the trophy made and it's like a bronze glove that gets passed back and forth to the winner," Smith said. "It's a city facility, and they're the big city schools, and I think there is interest in the event. We like having it here. I'd like to see the other schools play here more, and I think they want the kids to have a chance to play here under the lights."

On Friday, Williamsport will host Boonsboro at Municipal Stadium at 7 p.m. According to Williamsport athletic director Stan Stouffer, two sponsors -- Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Conservit, Inc. -- have stepped up to help pay the costs of playing at the stadium.

Williamsport will charge $5 for adults and $2 for students to attend the game, which are the standard rates to attend high school sports events at Washington County public schools -- although most schools don't charge a fee to attend baseball or softball games at the schools.

"We are going to charge, but it's not a money-making thing," Stouffer said. "We just want to give the kids a chance to play on the big field under the big lights and give them the experience. Personally, I hope next year we'll be able to continue doing this."

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