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Hagerstown negotiating potential 20-year stadium lease with Suns owner

City and county officials stress need for multiuse facility that can benefit area no matter what the outcome

February 01, 2012|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown officials are negotiating with Hagerstown Suns owner Bruce Quinn over the terms of a potential 20-year stadium lease, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said this week during a video interview at The Herald-Mail.

During that interview, Bruchey and council members Lewis C. Metzner and Ashley C. Haywood stressed that while a deal with the minor league baseball team could still be possible, their support of a stadium project has more to do with building a multiuse facility that will benefit the city no matter what happens with the Suns.

“It isn’t about whether we can fix up the stadium so the Suns are happy with it, and they’ll decide to stay there,” Metzner said. “What they’re going to do is what they’re going to do.”

The council members also said the city was leaning toward building a new stadium at a different location rather than renovating or rebuilding Municipal Stadium on its current site.

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Bruchey, Metzner and Haywood made the comments during an  interview Tuesday with HM Headline News anchor Kim Rasmussen. A clip of the interview is in Wednesday’s HM Headline News video at www.herald-mail.com. The full interview will be posted by next week.

Asked Wednesday about the Suns’ potential lease, Bruchey said Quinn put it together and sent it to the city about two weeks ago. He would not elaborate on the terms, saying “it’s a work in progress.”

Quinn did not return a call seeking comment for this story.

“There are things in the lease that need to be tweaked. We’re trying to address some of those issues and look to the future for the city of Hagerstown,” Bruchey said.

“Once we have more information gathered, we can apply that information to tweaking that lease,” he said.

Bruchey said Quinn included a timeline in the lease and that meeting that timeline “may be a stretch,” but that the city is “really close to where he wants to be.”

The comments come as Winchester, Va., the city reportedly pursuing the Suns, prepares for a public dialogue about building a baseball stadium. The Winchester City Council is seeking public comment on a stadium project at Feb. 7 and 14 meetings.

Meanwhile, the Hagerstown City Council and Washington County Board of Commissioners voted last week to look into the cost of an economic impact study on building a stadium here, Bruchey has said. Officials are still waiting to learn the cost, he said Wednesday.

Bruchey said if Hagerstown builds a stadium, it will be a multiuse facility that can also accommodate football games, high school sports, concerts, fairs and other events.

“It’s got to be active a majority of the year,” he said.

In an interview after a Washington County legislative delegation meeting in Annapolis on Wednesday, county Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham also called for a multiuse facility that would be an asset with or without the Suns.

If the team goes to Winchester, local leaders will “work aggressively” to bring in another baseball team, Callaham said.

As to location, Metzner said: “I may be wrong, but I think most of us at city government aren’t really talking any more about renovation of Municipal Stadium.”

Haywood agreed the current site would not give the city the “biggest bang for its buck.”

“I think we need to consider its location, and where it will provide the most impact in changing the landscape — the makeup, economically and socially — of our city,” Haywood said.

Metzner said the project will not happen without support from the county and state, and called for more public discussion about building a stadium.

“We can’t get the county commissioners and the state delegation to support this project if we don’t have the citizens supporting it,” he said.

At the delegation meeting Wednesday, Del. Andrew A. Serafini said officials from the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Department of Business and Economic Development were invited to speak at next week’s meeting.

Serafini, the delegation chairman, said he wants lawmakers to know the possibilities for state funding, in case Washington County needs to make a request later.

Callaham praised Serafini for thinking ahead.

She said it will take a communitywide effort to concurrently build a new stadium and attract a major employer to Hagerstown’s downtown.

“We need all hands on deck,” she said.

Staff Writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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