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Hagerstown gets state advice on stadium options

February 08, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • The Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly heard about the Maryland Stadium Authority on Wednesday from Executive Director Michael J. Frenz, left, and Project Executive Gary A. McGuigan.
By Andrew Schotz, Staff Writer

Maryland Stadium Authority officials have been to Hagerstown to advise the city on plans for a new or refurbished baseball stadium, authority Executive Director Michael J. Frenz said Wednesday.

Frenz and Gary A. McGuigan, a project executive for the authority, spoke at the Washington County legislative delegation’s weekly meeting in Annapolis.

In an interview, Frenz said city officials showed him Municipal Stadium and the possible site of a new multiuse sports complex that local officials are considering building. The potential site has not been publicly disclosed.

“I think both options should be considered,” Frenz said, noting that Municipal Stadium, the Hagerstown Suns’ current home, is not in good shape.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said outside the meeting room that Billy Ripken, the brother of Hall of FamerCal Ripken Jr., told him Municipal Stadium probably could be renovated for about $5 million.

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However, estimates from other sources have been much higher, as much as $17 million, Donoghue said.

Hagerstown and Washington County officials have talked more urgently in recent months about whether to build a new stadium — a project long discussed as a way to keep the minor league Suns in the city.

Multiple sources have said that the Suns’ owners have been in talks with the city of Winchester, Va., about moving into a new stadium that would be built there.

Local officials have expressed a desire to keep the team, but also have said they probably would recruit a new baseball team if the Suns leave.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Frenz declined to estimate how much a new stadium in Hagerstown might cost.

However, Frenz and McGuigan told the delegation about two Maryland minor league baseball parks that received authority assistance.

Ripken Stadium, which opened in 2002 in Aberdeen, Md., cost $18 million, authority officials said. That was built with one-third of the money from the state, a third from local government and a third from private sources.

A ballpark that opened in 2008 in Charles County in Southern Maryland cost $25 million. That cost also was divided almost evenly by the state, county and private interests.

Although the stadium authority helps design and build arenas and similar structures, Frenz said after the meeting that he didn’t know if Hagerstown — on a “compressed” schedule because of the Winchester possibility — will rely on the authority for that type of help.

“At this point, we’re giving them more technical assistance,” he said.

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