Proponents: Sports/events center could be catalyst for redevelopment of downtown

April 16, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • The proposed site of a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns is north of West Baltimore Street, at lower left, and east of Summit Avenue.
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — The possibility of constructing a new multiuse sports and events center in downtown Hagerstown is being viewed by local elected officials as a long-overdue catalyst for redevelopment of the city’s struggling downtown.

But exactly how the stadium, which would be the new home of the Hagerstown Suns, would help facilitate that goal — in the form of new development and jobs — remains to be seen.

According to the Ripken Design feasibility study released Friday, conservative projections indicate that the construction of the $30 million multiuse center would support about 132 baseball-related jobs and $4.5 million in earnings over the first decade. It would also create about 172 one-time construction jobs and about $7.6 million in earnings to build the stadium.

City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Monday that officials would likely only consider the most conservative projection because “I think the citizens would want us to be conservative.”

“While there are a lot of self-pronounced experts out there, I’m not one of them,” he said. “Having looked at this study so far, the idea was to find out if it was economically feasible. The study says it is. It says it’s more than economically feasible; it’s almost necessary if we want to help our community.”

What the report doesn’t take into account is the local impact that new jobs and development not related to the Suns, such as new restaurants, hotels or retail shops, could have on the downtown area.

Hagerstown Economic Development Manager Jill Estavillo, who is serving as the manager for the project, said the report is even more conservative than first thought because it only accounts for baseball-related and construction jobs.

“But (the report) doesn’t say that if ‘X’ number of businesses open in the surrounding area of the location, that additional job impacts would occur,” Estavillo said. “The economic impact could be greater once you take into consideration development that is spurred as a result of the stadium in terms of new jobs.”

Dan Taylor, project manager for Ripken Design, said restaurants, hotels and retail businesses, among other developments, would be “heavily impacted” as a result of the center.

“It all just cycles through the economy,” he said of the increased impact.

Ripken Design’s most conservative model shows a direct, indirect and induced economic impact of about $43.5 million, including jobs and earnings related to baseball and the center’s construction.

To determine the numbers in the report, Ripken Design bases its findings on a system called the Regional Industrial Multiplier System, or RIMS. The system was developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and it examines industries across the country and how they interact, Taylor said.

Multipliers strictly related to Washington County were used in the report, Taylor said.

Direct impact is defined as new money spent in the local economy, while indirect impact quantifies how each new dollar is recycled, like in new wages, rent or maintenance. Induced impact is calculated as the repeated circulation of those dollars locally.

On the other hand, if the project does not go through and Hagerstown lost the Suns to another city, it would result in the loss of about 150 full-time and seasonal jobs, as well as about $539,000 in local spending related directly to the Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

As encouraged as he is by the possible development that could result from a new multiuse center, Metzner said he is equally discouraged by the thought of the team leaving.

“The first thing that we need to do is save the businesses that exist,” he said. “We keep getting criticized about the businesses that are leaving. There is over a $500,000 direct payment to businesses in our community from the Hagerstown Suns, and the thought of losing that was very detrimental.”

Metzner also highlighted the fact that the Suns would be paying $300,000 in annual rent to play in the facility, quite an increase over their current annual payment of just $1 at the aging Municipal Stadium.

“That is, in fact, putting their money where their mouth is,” he said.

Taylor and other Ripken Design officials will be on hand at Tuesday afternoon’s joint meeting with city, Washington County and state officials to go over the report and answer any questions. The meeting will start at 3 p.m. at Hagerstown City Hall, 1 E. Franklin St.

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