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Washington Co. to give $20,000 to softball association

Money to help pay for lighting; Riford says lighted fields draw tournaments to Hagerstown

Money to help pay for lighting; Riford says lighted fields draw tournaments to Hagerstown

December 16, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to contribute $20,000 from the county's hotel-motel tax fund to the Hagerstown Softball Association to help pay for lighting that was installed last year at the Fairgrounds Park softball fields.

The project cost about $158,000 and the lights are being leased until they can be paid off, said Mike Kelbaugh of the Hagerstown Softball Assoication. The association has raised more than $105,000 toward paying off the lights, Kelbaugh said.

Thomas B. Riford, President and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the lighted fields help attract statewide and regional softball tournaments to Hagerstown, which in turn helps fill hotels and boosts business for local restaurants and stores. A typical weekend tournament brings in about $26,000 for the local economy, and the county hosts about a dozen tournaments each year, Riford said.

The commissioners said the request was an easy one to support because it was directly related to hotel-motel tax generation, it was an infrastructure project as opposed to an operational funding request, and the group had done a lot of its own fundraising.

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The hotel-motel tax fund is generated from lodging rentals and is to be used for "developing tourism attractions, enhancing economic development, and supporting cultural and recreational projects in Washington County," according to the program guidelines. County Administrator Gregory B. Murray said there was about $200,000 left in the fund for the current fiscal year.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the request, with Commissioners President John F. Barr abstaining. Barr said he was "somewhat involved" with the softball association.

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