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City: If downtown stadium project advances, construction could begin in first half of 2013

According to emailed release, no private funding for project has been finalized but viable opportunities exist

August 27, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • This conceptual drawing of a proposed "Multi-Use Sports & Events Center" at the intersection of Summit Avenue and Baltimore Street in downtown Hagerstown wsa prepared by HKS Sports & Entertainment.
City of Hagerstown

A new conceptual drawing of a proposed downtown Hagerstown multiuse sports and events center gives people a better understanding of how the stadium could look, though it is not the final drawing, the project manager said Monday.

The conceptual drawing, by HKS Sports & Entertainment, shows a grassy berm along left field, where people could gather to watch the game; and the potential reuse of a Washington County administration building on Hood Street as one of the concessions areas, Project Manager Jill Estavillo said.

The drawing was released Monday by the City of Hagerstown as part of a status report on the proposed project. That report states that if the project moves forward, construction would “most likely begin in the first half of 2013.”

The drawing includes a picnic-style area along right field and concessions along the concourse, Estavillo said. She said it was too early to tell if the bullpens would be visible to fans so they could see pitchers warming up. A family entertainment or amusement area is envisioned, but has not been defined, she said.

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The main tenant for the proposed $30 million facility would be the Hagerstown Suns, a Class A minor league baseball team with whom city officials are still negotiating to work out a long-term lease.

Estavillo said the city has hired a firm to conduct the second phase of an environmental analysis of the proposed site for the facility, at the corner of West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue. That phase includes actual testing of the ground by boring into the soil.

Triad Engineering of Hagerstown has been hired to do that work at a cost that is not to exceed $8,345, Hagerstown spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said. The contract was not large enough to require a vote by the Hagerstown City Council, she said.

Triad was given the notice to proceed on Aug. 24, but it cannot start field work until it has the permission of property owners, Wolfe said.

The conceptual drawing released Monday also shows home plate in the direction of the intersection of Summit Avenue and West Antietam Street, as opposed to the intersection of Summit Avenue and West Baltimore Street, as depicted in an earlier drawing.

The first drawing released to the public was never intended to precisely define boundaries for the facility, Estavillo said. Home plate could still move, but the design is getting closer to being final, she said.

Some people thought the first drawing showed the facility’s boundary crossing over the alley that now runs between the Baltimore Street Station Car Wash and St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Estavillo said.

With the new conceptual drawing, the alley remains open, and that also is the plan for the final version, Estavillo said. That alley allows access to parking for the church, she said.

“The city has always viewed private-sector financial support as a critical component of this project,” the status report states. Private support could come in the way of naming rights, funding for construction of the stadium and investment in properties near the center, according to the status report.

According to the status report, there “remain others who are seriously exploring investment opportunities in the stadium and adjacent property, along with naming rights for the project. There are no finalized funding commitments.”

If property near the stadium site is improved so its assessed value increases, city officials hope to use the increased property tax revenue to help fund the multiuse center project, Estavillo said.

“As the Ripken report identified, we are looking at this project being funded without new taxes or a change in the tax rate, but funded as a result of change in assessed value by investment in downtown, Estavillo said.

Estavillo said she thought a lot of people interested in private development around the facility were waiting for the lease with the Suns to be signed before making an investment.

The status report states a 20-year lease is anticipated, with two options for five-year renewals.

Asked if the Hagerstown Suns would contribute financially to the new multiuse center, Estavillo said “that’s part of the lease negotiations.”

The current project concept calls for the city to own and control the multiuse center, according to the status report.

Estavillo said the lease “would move us forward and it would be a significant step in making the project happen.”

The city still needs to acquire land for the project, including a significant portion of The Herald-Mail’s parking lot.

Herald-Mail Publisher Andy Bruns said the company has not reached a deal to sell part of its land for the stadium project.

Bruns said he was getting an appraisal done of the media company’s property so he could determine the value of the land with and without a portion of its parking lot.

City officials have indicated how much of The Herald-Mail’s property they would like, Bruns said. He said he indicated he would like them to take less.

Bruns said one of his main concerns is tractor-trailers being able to access the loading dock because the company still receives deliveries of products it distributes, including newspaper inserts and other newspapers. From a preliminary sketch he saw, Bruns said, he didn’t know if those trucks could get to the dock.

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