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Talks continue on extending Suns' lease at Municipal Stadium

March 20, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — City officials are continuing negotiations with the Hagerstown Suns ownership on a lease extension that would keep the minor league baseball team in town through 2014.

Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn attended a 30-minute closed-door session with city Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and the five-member Hagerstown City Council Tuesday afternoon.

Afterward, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said that the two sides agreed to continue discussions on a new lease, but no formal decisions would be made until the completion of a report by the Ripken Group, the firm commissioned to perform a stadium-feasibility study.

“We’re not the only players in this,” Metzner said, referring to the involvement of the county and state.

Bruchey could not say when the Ripken Group’s findings would be available, but said he hopes to have a meeting with county and possibly state officials on April 17.

The meeting, which Bruchey said would be open to the public, would be to discuss the city’s next step — whether to renovate Municipal Stadium or seek construction of a new stadium that could be located in the area of the Herald-Mail Co. parking lot in downtown Hagerstown.

“It’s crucial to have state support on a project of this magnitude,” Bruchey said.

The mayor previously said he expected the consultant’s report by the end of March.

When asked which was the better course of action — renovating Municipal Stadium or building a new ballpark — Bruchey said “all eyes are toward the future” to find the best way to keep baseball in Hagerstown, as well as to retain and add jobs related to the team.

Metzner said there was no discussion about last week’s revelation that the Washington Nationals failed to offer a player-development contract extension with the Suns, a Single-A affiliate for the big league club. The current contract expires at the end of this season.

The Suns were the only team in the Nationals organization not offered a renewal. Triple-A Syracuse, Double-A Harrisburg and Single-A Potomac and Auburn were all given two-year extensions through the 2014 season.

Municipal Stadium, which opened in 1930, has been a major concern for the Nationals organization, which sent Quinn a letter informing him of needed renovations to bring the aging park up to Major League Baseball standards.

Faced with the need for large-scale renovations to the aging stadium’s playing surface and clubhouse facilities, Quinn explored other options for the team, including Winchester, Va., which appeared to be the front-runner to lure the Suns away from Hagerstown before its city council on March 13 unanimously rejected a proposal to transfer land for a new stadium to house the team in a community park.

While the future remains unclear for the Suns in Hagerstown, the 2012 season will get under way April 5 when the West Virginia Power come to town for the club’s home opener.

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