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Letters to the Editor - March 29

March 28, 2012

Government should move stadium project forward

To the editor:
Washington County is in danger of losing the Hagerstown Suns because Municipal Stadium is not up to the minimum standards for Class A professional baseball. Either the stadium must be improved to minimum standards or the team must move. The Suns owners have no choice but to comply.

Some people have a misunderstanding about the purpose of minor league baseball and the positive benefits of having a local team. Several people have publicly expressed their opposition to building a new stadium. Some reasons cited for this opposition are: (a) game attendance will not increase significantly, (b) the Suns provide little financial benefit to the community, (c) the Suns do not field championship teams, (d) few Suns players advance to the major leagues, (e) local taxes will increase. None of these reasons is valid. In fact, there is no valid reason for not building a new stadium. 

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Local taxes will not need to increase if the stadium is built. Public funding for the stadium can come from the local hotel/motel tax and the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The Hagerstown Suns are a financial benefit to the local economy. Concession supplies, equipment, team transportation, etc., are purchased locally. The Suns office employs about 10 full-time workers year-round and more than 30 part-time workers during each home game. The Suns players, manager, coaches and trainers add up to more than 30 people. They are living in the Hagerstown area and spending their income locally for housing, food, automobiles, clothing, etc. Trainers, scouts and players’ families stay in local motels and dine in local restaurants throughout the season. These monies are “fixed” since they do not depend on game attendance. In fact, increasing game attendance should not even be a driving consideration in the decision to build a new stadium.

If the Suns are forced to move, it will be a significant loss, both recreational and financial, to a large number of Washington County citizens. Therefore, local governments and citizens should get behind a new stadium project and move it forward.

Dean Burkett
Williamsport


Building recreational facilities doesn’t ensure their use

To the editor:
I am responding to the March 18 column by Art Callaham concerning the lack of “things to do” in Washington County. The building of more bike paths and sports/multi-use fields will not automatically bring people to these locations.

This country, in general, and our area, in particular, need to have a fundamental change in how we view exercise, health, obesity and alcohol/tobacco use. Citizens need to lessen TV viewing and Internet “surfing” and become more physically active. As an avid runner, I am shocked at the underutilization of the C&O Canal, city bike paths and multi-use fields in our county. Just as having exercise equipment in your basement does not guarantee it will be used, neither does building facilities for public recreation ensure utilization to its full potential.   

Callaham commented on why businesses are not flocking to move to or expand in our area. Maryland is ranked as one of the top anti-business and business-unfriendly states in the country. Environmental and zoning laws, licensing and registration fees, personal property tax, unemployment assessments, payroll and pension deposits, and many more fees burden a company from its start. These fees and taxes are levied whether or not you are making a profit. The total regulatory structure of Maryland forces companies to look at Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Regarding the Hagerstown Suns stadium, I don’t recall any of the local stories stating the amount of money the Suns owners are willing to contribute. Do the owners expect the state and local jurisdictions to contribute the full $15 million? Are they willing to invest $7.5 million of their own with the county and state putting up the other half? As Callaham said, “If you want something, you generally have to pay for it.” Perhaps it’s time for the Suns’ ownership to tell the taxpayers what they are willing to pay. Is it up to the state, local and federal government, through taxpayer money, to provide the Suns a stadium for the entertainment of a few? 

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