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Mixup leads to report of new offer to move Suns to Winchester, Va.

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

HAGERSTOWN — Despite a report that appeared briefly on a Virginia newspaper’s website, the head of an economic development agency in Winchester, Va., said Wednesday that the city has presented no new proposals to attract the Hagerstown Suns to move there.

Jim Deskins, executive director of the Winchester Economic Development Authority, said the only offer to Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn is the one that has been there throughout the process, one under which Quinn would partner with the city on a stadium development project.

In a story posted online Tuesday afternoon, The Winchester Star first reported that Deskins had presented a new proposal to Quinn, but some information was misconstrued in the process, according to Deskins and the newspaper.

“About an hour after (the report was posted online), I called and told them to pull it off,” Deskins said when reached by phone.

The Star has since posted an updated version, saying Quinn has informed Winchester officials that he needs more time to make a decision.

Deskins said Winchester officials have been considering a pair of potential sites along South Pleasant Valley Road, south of the Apple Blossom Mall and adjacent to Interstate 81, that could serve a new multiuse stadium to house the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, Deskins said.

Site and financial analyses have been completed at both locations, and one has been picked as the “preferred site,” but it has not been announced publicly, Deskins said.

When asked about recent conversations with Quinn, Deskins said the team owner is trying to figure out what’s best for the ball club while Winchester officials continue to determine if it would be a good business decision for their city.

Winchester’s current proposal, which would be paid for through operational revenues and no taxpayer money, would require a substantial investment from Quinn as part of the deal.

Hagerstown officials have also been in ongoing talks with Quinn about forging a new long-term lease to keep the club here, but no deals are on the immediate horizon.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Tuesday that there has “definitely” been progress toward a potential 20-year lease, and he believes the city is still “very, very much alive” in terms of keeping the team.

Hagerstown is in the process of examining the prospect of constructing a new downtown multiuse sports and events center at the corner of Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue, estimated to cost about $30 million and include an adjacent parking deck.

Since 1981, the Suns have played their home games at 82-year-old Municipal Stadium.

Using a consultant’s study, Hagerstown officials have ruled out the possibility of renovating the current ballpark, one of the three oldest minor league baseball stadiums in the country.

Hagerstown officials released a preliminary project timeline in May, which anticipated that construction of a new downtown facility would be complete in time for the 2015 season.

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