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'Large private contribution' for downtown stadium discussed at Hagerstown council meeting

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner says the city council has been getting 'closer and closer' to finishing a 20-year lease proposal to Suns owners

August 21, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

After their two-hour executive session Tuesday, City of Hagerstown officials are hoping to present a proposal for a long-term lease with the Hagerstown Suns “shortly,” a council member said.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the city council has been getting “closer and closer” to finishing a 20-year lease proposal, and a presentation of that proposal to the Suns owners could come as soon as this week.

“Today was up to us to get the proposal together, which I think we did,” Metzner said after the council’s work session at City Hall. “I would like to think that we’d have something in (Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn’s) hands tomorrow.”

A major topic discussed during Tuesday’s executive session was a “large private contribution” toward a potential downtown multiuse sports and events center, in which the Suns would be the primary tenant, Metzner said.

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“We’re talking large,” he said, although he did not provide further details about the amount of private funding or the sources.

The facility, which could be located at the corner of West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue, is estimated to cost around $30 million and include an adjacent parking deck.

The ballpark would be paid for through a formula that calls for one-third of the funding coming from local sources, like the city, county and Suns, along with one-third from the private sector and the final one-third paid for by the state.

“I think you can see that we’re talking about substantial private funding here,” Metzner said. “I would hope working with the stadium authority will certainly help get the funding from the state using this formula.”

Earlier this year, the city and the Washington County Board of Commissioners agreed to a funding formula that would contribute up to $800,000 annually over 20 years for the local share of the debt service.

The acquisition of state funding won’t be possible until the Maryland General Assembly goes back into session this winter.

Lease negotiations with the low-level Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals have been ongoing for months.

Council members said a week ago — after an executive session with officials from the Suns, South Atlantic League, Maryland Stadium Authority and Washington Nationals player development — that progress was being made and the framework for a deal would be outlined shortly.

Metzner said the meeting Tuesday was the first time that the council has unanimously agreed on lease terms in a proposal for the Suns.

“And that’s substantial,” he said. “That’s the first time we’ve really gotten this far.”

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