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Who made $15 million pledge to Suns is 'speculative chatter of Hagerstown'

The mystery man is a Pennsylvania resident, of 'retired age' and had lived in Hagerstown before moving out of the area

September 05, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@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

Curiosity ran rampant throughout Hagerstown on Wednesday, as people learned of an anonymous private donor who has verbally pledged $15 million toward the city’s proposed downtown multiuse stadium project.

“It is the speculative chatter of Hagerstown right now,” said Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce. “If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you, but I don’t know.”

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Tuesday that the mystery man is not a resident of Maryland, but does live in the Tri-State area. Metzner and Councilman William Breichner offered a few new details Wednesday.

While the city has promised to keep his identity confidential for now, both council members said the donor lived in Hagerstown before moving out of the area. Breichner said the man is of “retired age” and lives in Pennsylvania within about an hour of Hagerstown.

Breichner said the man has not attended any of the city council’s closed-door executive session meetings to discuss the donation. The donor has worked exclusively through Metzner, who said the man is requesting — in addition to naming rights for the stadium — a statue to be built depicting the person for whom the facility is to be named and covered seating areas.

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Metzner said the donor is an individual with no other business or corporate connections, who has no intention to turn around and sell the naming rights of the stadium to the highest bidder.

“We are aware of who the donor wants to name the stadium after,” Metzner said. “It is not the donor or a person related to the donor. It is a name that some old-timers may be familiar with when they hear it, but clearly this is not going to be ABC Inc. Stadium.

“There should be nobody in the world who thinks this is an egotistical gentleman who wants this named after him,” Metzner said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The man has been described as having a love for baseball, downtowns and Hagerstown, according to several city officials.

Metzner, a lifelong Hagerstown resident, said he did not know of the donor before the man approached him in late April or early May as the city got serious about the proposed facility, estimated to cost about $30 million.

Metzner said numerous people contacted him Wednesday, claiming they were “ready to bet money” that they knew who the mystery man was, but that was not the case.

“It’s not the Jack Hershey-type people, the Don Bowman-type people, the Ad Fulton-type people — the people who live in this area that we all know,” he said. “It’s a very humble person who is not known very well, and I don’t know how he is going to deal with the whole situation.”

The donation won’t be finalized until a new long-term lease with the Suns is signed, Metzner said. The councilman hinted that negotiations might be finally coming to a close in the next week or two.

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