HAGERSTOWN — City of Hagerstown officials on Friday released a preliminary project timeline for the planning and construction of a proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center.
According to the schedule, the first pitch in a new facility that could house the Hagerstown Suns could be thrown in spring 2015.
Provided that other steps are met — including securing a new long-term lease with the Suns — the timeline projects demolition of the site at the corner of Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue to begin about May 2013.
Securing state funding needed for about one-third of the estimated $30 million project from the Maryland General Assembly will be important to keep the project moving forward, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.
City officials will discuss the timeline with Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and city council members during a work session Tuesday at City Hall, starting at about 5 p.m.
In a memo to city council, Tissue said design work would start in coordination with state funding decisions, and an 18-month time frame would be the basis for construction.
The construction process could be accelerated, but Tissue said it would be “improbable” to see the center completed before the end of the 2014 baseball season, according to the memo.
When reached for comment about the timeline Monday, Bruchey said he thinks city officials could have been more aggressive in their timeline, believing the project could get completed quicker than expected.
“I still think that we’re selling ourselves short,” Bruchey said.
Bruchey said he doesn’t believe the city needs to wait for a confirmation about state funding to continue with the formal architectural designs, which aren’t projected to begin until February 2013.
Tissue said state funding is “such a major part” of the process that it’s difficult to tell at this time if the timeline could be accelerated, but acknowledged that it could be a possibility down the road.
One issue that needs to be addressed immediately is a new deal that would keep the Class A minor league Suns in town for the next couple of decades as the facility’s primary tenant.
Bruchey said team owner Bruce Quinn has been out of the country and no new negotiations have taken place, but he anticipated getting together with Quinn next week.
The five-member city council last Tuesday approved funding of up to $400,000 per year over a 20-year period toward the local debt service of the new facility, matching an indirect contribution of $400,000 from the Washington County Commissioners.
The county commissioners voted to take over the city’s $400,000-a-year payment to the 911 emergency communications center indefinitely, allowing the city to fund up to $800,000 per year.
City officials said last week they were working toward securing a memorandum of understanding with Suns ownership to ensure the team would not leave if they moved forward with the project.
Meanwhile, officials in Winchester, Va., have been developing stadium plans for two potential new sites in hopes of landing the team.
Quinn has said he is still in talks with Winchester as a possible location if he decides to move the team, which has been an affiliate of five different Major League Baseball clubs since 1981.
The Suns’ current affiliate, the Washington Nationals, sent a letter earlier this year to Quinn informing him of needed upgrades at Municipal Stadium to bring the 81-year-old park up to MLB standards.
The Nationals issued player development contract renewals to all of its affiliates except the Suns, prompting his search for a new venue, Quinn has said. Hagerstown’s current contract with Washington expires at the end of the 2012 season.
Hagerstown Baseball LLC, headed by Quinn, purchased the Suns in 2010.
Timeline for sports, events center
The preliminary timeline for the multiuse sports and events center is as follows: