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Residents react to fading hopes for new stadium in Hagerstown

Most blame change in city government for standstill of downtown project

December 05, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • The proposed site of a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns is north of West Baltimore Street, at lower left, and east of Summit Avenue.
File photo

A multiuse sports and events center may not happen after all, and for people like Hagerstown resident Pat Matter, the blame should go in one direction: City Government.

“Everybody thought the anonymous donor would come up with the money, but they can’t make up their mind,” she said. “One says yes, then one says no; they want to put it one place, then they want to put it somewhere else. It’s an odd situation.”

Matter, 71, said she would be fine with the downtown stadium “if they had places to park.”

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Wednesday that the $15 million from an anonymous donor that could go toward the $37 million multiuse stadium may not happen, reducing the chances for a downtown stadium, where the Hagerstown Suns would play baseball.

Hagerstown resident Robert Stouffer, 66, said that the elections in November might have impacted stadium plans.

“Maybe the turnover of the local leadership placed some doubt in the donor,” he said. “But I can’t read into the mind of the person.”

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Stouffer added that he was “ambivalent” about the idea anyway.

“If it could help downtown, I think it’s positive, but that’s not really guaranteed,” he said. “The physical form of downtown is deteriorating and we would be building a stadium in a soft spot in terms of urban design. It’s under-built over there at this point.”

Stouffer was referring to the area near the corner of West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue, the proposed location for the multiuse stadium.

Among area residents who spoke with The Herald-Mail on Wednesday, five said that the uncertainty is a result of the actions taken by city officials, another five said that the elections affected the uncertainty, and one person refused to say why he believes there is now uncertainty behind the project. Another person, Hagerstown resident Sue Ridenour, was against the stadium from the start and said she did not believe there was an anonymous donor.

“I don’t think someone was ever going to donate the money,” she said. “There’s too much congestion there. Parking would be a nightmare.”

Rick Anthony, 54, of Sharpsburg, however, works in Hagerstown and blamed city politicians for the uncertainty surrounding the money.

“The city council has said they want to revisit a lot of issues that had potentially been settled by the previous council,” he said. “For good or for bad, when there is a seeming incontinuity within the government in the City of Hagerstown, it does not create a welcoming background for business to come in, and that’s what the city needs.”

Anthony added that he supports a downtown multiuse stadium.

“They need to revitalize downtown,” he said. “Putting the stadium where they’re talking about doing it would certainly do that, and I thought that was a settled issue, and now when the city council says they want to revisit that, it adds to a level of discomfort in the business community I think.”

Asking state officials for $10 million in funding was also on the table, but Metzner referred to that as “pointless” without the $15 million or another “significant seven-figure contribution,” according to reports.

Hagerstown resident Peter Perini, 49, said he is not surprised about the uncertainty surrounding the $15 million, but he would not say what he thinks caused it and still supports building the multiuse stadium, even without the donation.

“In my opinion, there are several minor league baseball stadiums that have been built around this state, and I don’t think any of them had a $15 million angel investor,” he said. “It has been a long time since that has been discussed, and my thinking was the longer it took, the more it probably was a difficult situation.”

Wendy Hughes, 51, of Hagerstown, however, is against the stadium and said she thinks the elections might have impacted whatever decision the donor was going to make.

“Maybe (the donor) knows that a lot of Hagerstown is against it and probably doesn’t want to be embarrassed,” she said. “Maybe they just realized they don’t want to uproot a lot of people’s lives who have houses downtown.”

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