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Numerous denials given in quest to identify stadium's mystery donor

September 05, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Before learning Wednesday afternoon that the man who has verbally pledged $15 million toward the construction of a downtown multiuse events center is a resident of Pennsylvania, The Herald-Mail contacted a number of people with possible connections to the project to see if they knew the identity of the mystery man.

Nobody did.

But a lot of people denied they were the potential donors.

One of those who denied making the pledge was Vincent Groh, a Hagerstown property owner who donated the building that now houses Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

“No, I don’t have that kind of money,” he said.

As for the project, Groh said, “I think it’s a stupid idea.”

The donor also is not Suns owner Bruce Quinn, West Virginia Powerball winner Randy Smith or Russ Potts, founder of a sports marketing company in the Winchester, Va., area, the men said.

“It wasn’t me,” said Smith, a former Berkeley County, W.Va., sheriff who won a $79 million Powerball jackpot in 2010.

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Smith said he’s donated $8 million to $9 million of his winnings to the Berkeley County Community. 

Asked if he was the donor, Potts laughed and said he wasn’t.

Potts is a former Virginia state senator who served as sports marketing director for the University of Maryland; founded his own sports marketing company — Russ Potts Productions in Winchester, Va.; and is executive director of the Winchester Education Foundation, according to the foundation’s website.

“In the first place, I couldn’t write a check for that. And if I did have it, I would write it for here, which is my hometown. But I’m happy for Hagerstown and I’m happy for that wonderful community. I think it’s terrific,” Potts said.

Hagerstown Suns co-owners Quinn and Tony Dahbura also were asked if they were the anonymous donor.

“I looked in my right sock and, unfortunately, I had 20 and couldn’t make change for 15,” Dahbura joked about the pledge.

Dahbura, a minority owner of the Suns who lives in Hagerstown and co-owns Hub Labels, said he was definitely not the potential donor.

As did Quinn.

“Ha. Am I? No. Not that I know of,” said Quinn, majority owner of the Suns.

Local businessman and developer Don Bowman said he is not the prospective donor.

“Not guilty,” Bowman said.

Somebody posted a comment under The Herald-Mail’s online story about the pledge, stating that the donor was Taylor Davis.

“It definitely is not me,” said Davis, business development manager for Morgan-Keller Construction.

Davis said he got a little ribbing at the Rotary of Hagerstown’s Wednesday meeting because his colleagues had seen the online posting.

“I’ll donate 15, but it’s $15,” Davis joked.

Former Baltimore Orioles players Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken have a connection to Hagerstown through Ripken Design, a company of theirs that prepared a feasibility report on building a new stadium.

But John Maroon of Maroon PR, speaking on behalf of Ripken Baseball, said the Ripkens are not the mystery donor.

However, if the project moves ahead, Ripken Design would like to be involved, Maroon said.

On the corporate front, First Energy, which does business locally as Potomac Edison, is not the donor, according to First Energy spokesman Todd Meyers.

“Beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is not Potomac Edison. ... It is not Potomac Edison or First Energy,” Meyers said.

In February 1998, the power company, known at the time as Allegheny Power, announced an agreement in principle to pay the Hagerstown Suns $1 million for the rights to name a new baseball stadium Allegheny Energy Field for at least 12 years. At the time, there were talks of building a new stadium in Hagerstown’s West End, between Interstate 81 and Marshall Street.

Meyers said he was sure the proposed multiuse facility is a “very worthwhile project” and that Potomac Edison will support it, but not on that magnitude.

“Fifteen million dollars for anyone is certainly significant. I doubt there’s many corporations, individuals, etc., out there that that would be considered a small amount of change,” Meyers said.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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