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Hagerstown council member: Stop acting like 'there is only one baseball team' in city's future

During a discussion about stadium, Metzner says city should invite proposals from other minor league franchises

January 08, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown City Councilman Don Munson speaks out about the stadium issue as fellow council members Kristin B. Aleshire and Martin E. Brubaker listen Tuesday night during a council meeting.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Still at a stalemate as to what to do about building a stadium in Hagerstown, City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner encouraged his fellow council members Tuesday to stop acting like “there is only one baseball team in the world” to host in the city.

“How can we responsibly talk about spending the amount of money we’re talking about without putting that out there?” he said during a work session at City Hall. “... I think we should immediately put out an RFP (request for proposals).

“We should invite people in from the minor league industry that’s already had discussions with us, and ask them to make a proposal as it relates to either playing at Municipal, building a new stadium and what they’re willing to put into it,” he said.

Last month, Hagerstown Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn pitched a new idea for a $25 million ballpark to house the low-level Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, saying that the city and club need to come to a resolution by the first pitch of the 2013 season and be into a new facility by the 2014 season.

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Metzner said he feels there’s “no way in God’s green Earth” that a deal could be forged under that time constraint.

Tony Dahbura, a minority owner of the team, was in attendance at the meeting. He said that there are very few alternatives if the city would let the Suns leave town, including the loss of affiliated baseball forever.

“If affiliated ball leaves Hagerstown, we’ll never get it back,” Dahbura said. “I think that the city council and the mayor really set the stage to do some homework now.”

Funding, specifically the presence of essential private investment, has remained the major roadblock to getting any type of project moving, council members said.

“The reality is, we don’t have $15 million from a donor. We don’t have $10 million from the state,” Metzner said. “And we don’t have the money to build the stadium that the Hagerstown Suns want built, without ... substantial private investment. We have not seen any of that yet.”

The five-member council went around the table to brainstorm ideas of where to take a stadium project, such as possible locations and setting a limit on potential spending on any type of project.

Council members Penny Nigh and Don Munson are both against any type of facility to be built downtown and favor improving Municipal Stadium at the original location on East Memorial Boulevard. Nigh also doesn’t support putting so much public money toward any venture to keep the team.

“Quinn has to come up with an avenue on how to keep (the team) here,” Nigh said.

Metzner, who supported the downtown stadium proposal as a redevelopment project if the funding models fell into place, suggested that rather than looking at individual sites and spending time evaluating their feasibility, the city needs to first find out what funding is available and then go from there, for any location.

He said he would have never supported such a large project if it was only to keep the team.

“We need things to be affordable,” he said. “We need to know how we’re going to pay for it ... Why do we need to be locked into the Hagerstown Suns? To me, this is insanity.”

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