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Parasiliti: Commitment to Suns could jump-start city's progress

December 18, 2011
  • Bob Parasiliti
Bob Parasiliti

Every New Year rings in with some incredible standards to meet.

“It only happens once a year, when one night can change everything. For this one magical night, it is about getting another chance to do more, to give more and to love more. That’s what New Year’s is all about.”

That observation isn’t science. In fact, it is an excerpt from the trailer for “New Year’s Eve,” the holiday chick flick that is now in theaters.

The New Year is like the mouthwash after chewing on a year full of onions.

It’s the reset button needed to reboot all great intentions.

It is our mulligan.

In that sense, the City of Hagerstown placed its reservation for change in 2012 on Tuesday, three weeks before the ball is scheduled to drop.

In the loosest of definitions, that magic moment that separates 2011 and 2012 could signal a bit of badly needed rebirth for this area.

On Tuesday, the city made a commitment aimed at keeping professional baseball in Hagerstown.

It committed to help create a vastly improved facility, through renovating or replacing 80-year-old Municipal Stadium, at the price of about $2.8 million over 20 years.

It isn’t the solution, but it is the first step of many by this area and the Hagerstown Suns — the stadium’s main tenant — to make any solution a reality. And believe it, there are many more steps lined with a number of hoops to jump through to make any of this idea a reality.

The city offered money that will not raise taxes, with hopes that other parts of government will add support. It was also made with a promise from the Suns to work out a revenue-sharing plan which will help defer costs.

Without even looking, I know this idea will be met with mixed feelings. Any hint of progress automatically has people for and against it. No matter what it is — whether the terms of the economy, use of taxpayers’ money, need, practicality, political motives, bias support of one business and favoritism — it’s fired as salvos of smoke to cloud the issue.

It’s inevitable because every move involving business, government and public opinion provides more drama than “Days of Our Lives.”

That’s probably because it has a bearing on the days of our lives.

So, let’s strip it down to the bare essence.

What this came down to is the city drawing a line in the sand.

Another year is coming and there will be another business on the verge of eliminating local workers, closing or moving. A number of downtown mainstays closed in the last year. The closing of Washington County Hospital was the first in 2011’s domino effect as a number of the city’s signature shops were forced to surrender their downtown loyalty for survival.

Lately, it seems like all of Hagerstown’s one-way streets point out of town.

This week’s commitment can be perceived as the city’s next first shot at reclaiming Hagerstown’s image and standing.

It wasn’t that long ago when Hagerstown seemed like it was on the verge of big things. The area, sitting on the tangent of two major interstates that crossed on the outskirts of town, had every chance to thrive.

Business and industry courted us because of the benefits of the location.

But all that suddenly ended. The first finger was pointed at the economy, and it was a huge factor.

But so is complacency.

Right now, we are like a dog chasing its tail. We run around in circles trying to get something that stays just out of reach.

Right now, the businesses that are still here are badly damaged by the void created by the ones that have left.

There has been a long unwritten rule here that stunts progress. There is a desire to have big-city amenities as long as they don’t change the small-town feel. Bring in new businesses, outlets and entertainment possibilities, just don’t put them in my neighborhood and don’t use any of my tax money to get something I personally won’t use.

This may or may not be true, but a perception like this is an elephant in the room that seemingly handcuffs elected officials.

Again, the commitment for the stadium isn’t the answer, just the signs of a starting point. There have been other attempts, but none of them have produced the needed results.

If executed correctly, professional baseball and an improved stadium could be the anchor for exciting prospects to breathe life back into this town.

It’s worth a shot.

After all, “for this one magical night, it is about getting another chance to do more, to give more and to love more” for the town we call home.

It’s a new beginning every year.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at bobp@herald-mail.com.

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