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City officials, baseball representative talking sunny about potential stadium deal

September 11, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

While a new long-term lease with the Hagerstown Suns still hangs in the balance, both sides of the ongoing negotiations that could keep the team here for the next two decades spoke very positively of the proceedings Tuesday.

“I think it’s fair to say ... basic negotiations with the Suns are concluding in a successful manner for both the city and the Suns,” Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said at the start of the five-member council’s work session at City Hall.

Metzner provided no further details about the negotiations, which took place during the council’s executive session held before the regular work session, but did say he believes the situation is “wrapping up” and is coming to “a very positive end” for both parties.

Suns minority owner Tony Dahbura attended the council work session and he said he is “very satisfied” with the way lease talks are going.

“We’re working towards an agreement that’s fair for everyone, is workable for everyone, and above all, is going to create a wonderful asset for our community for many years to come,” Dahbura said. “Of course, the city needs to complete its due diligence with the public to make sure that as many people as possible are comfortable and knowledgeable about the future and what is going on.”

Dahbura would not comment on a rumor that all that was left for both sides was to sign the lease agreement, which would be for 20 years and might include an option for two five-year extensions.

“As with most negotiations where there’s a lot of good faith and good will towards a good cause, we inch closer and closer each day,” he said.

The Suns would be the primary tenant in the proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center that city officials are looking to build near the corner of West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue.

The Suns, a low-level Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, are expected to pay an annual rent of about $300,000 to play in the new facility, totaling $6 million over the span of a 20-year lease, city officials have said.

The construction of the stadium and an adjacent parking deck is estimated to cost about $30 million, but the city is still working through preliminary tasks, such as site analysis, environmental testing and architecture, officials have said.

Last week, it was announced that an anonymous private donor has offered to pledge $15 million toward the project, which would provide a significant boost as city officials still hope to acquire another $10 million from the state.

During the executive session, the city council began “calendaring” the project to provide an updated estimate of when certain steps in the project could be completed, Metzner said.

In the meantime, the city has scheduled tours of Municipal Stadium to show the public exactly why the renovation of the 82-year-old ballpark is not feasible. A public information meeting has been planned for mid-October to provide more details on the proposed project.

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