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Suns owner 'anxiously' awaits newest stadium study, city's reaction

Team's future in Hagerstown still unclear

April 08, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Stadium study
Stadium study

HAGERSTOWN — Hagerstown Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn said Monday that team officials are eager to hear the thoughts of city council members about a new economic feasibility study of alternative stadium sites.

“I did receive a call from the Hagerstown mayor last week informing me that the new Ripken report was due out shortly on alternative stadium locations,” Quinn said Monday in an email. “We anxiously await the report and the city council’s interpretation and decision.”

Ripken Design, which also completed the study on the city’s previously considered downtown stadium site, sent a draft of the new report to the city on Friday, according to Dan Taylor, project manager for the Baltimore-based firm.

At a cost of $11,250, the second report examines the former Washington County Hospital property as well as the current site of Municipal Stadium and other surrounding properties in Hagerstown’s East End, city officials have said.

City spokeswoman Erin Wolfe said a public meeting to discuss the findings of the report and next steps by the five-member city council had been scheduled for April 18, but that date won’t work because Ripken officials would not be able to attend. Another date has yet to be scheduled, she said.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said the report does not appear to take into account the possibility of constructing a stadium on the site of the former Municipal Electric Light Plant near the current ballpark on East Memorial Boulevard, but does examine land on the western side of Town Run — including parts of Hager Park — as a potential site.

Asked if there is a sense of urgency to get something decided in regard to the Suns, Aleshire said he does not want to “dwell on any subject more than is necessary,” adding that the site and funding mechanisms would need to “work out” for him to support a stadium project.

Suns officials have said the current site of Municipal Stadium was not a viable option for the team, a low-level Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

The future of the Suns in Hagerstown — whether the team decides to stay or relocate to another city — remains cloudy.

Winchester, Va., which appeared to be a serious contender to land the team last summer before talks fizzled, remains an option, Quinn said.

“We continue to work on locating an affordable land location to build a suitable stadium for affiliated baseball,” he said. “To date, the finances have not worked based on land acquisition costs.”

Rumors in some circles point to Fredericksburg, Va., as being a possibility for a team location. Quinn said he has not had any meetings with Fredericksburg city officials, in “formal or closed session.”

A real estate development official in Fredericksburg, Scott Little of Silver Companies, said he has not spoken with Quinn. He said the company’s 2,400-acre Celebrate Virginia commercial development would be the only likely area where a minor league ballpark could be built in the city.

About 55 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., the Celebrate development offers expansive retail, convention, corporate, entertainment, leisure activities and attractions on two plots north and south of the Rappahannock River in the Interstate 95 corridor, according to the Silver Companies website.

Little said he’s aware of an area group that has been trying to bring unaffiliated professional ball to the area, and had no knowledge of those talks involving the Suns or another Major League Baseball affiliated team.

In Hagerstown, a home owned by Quinn was recently listed for sale. The Suns owner said the property was purchased as an investment property.

“The housing market is rebounding and the owners of the house felt it was a good time to list,” Quinn said.

The Suns’ current player-development contract with the Nationals runs through the end of the 2014 season.

When asked about his interactions with the parent club, specifically whether the Nationals have given Quinn a deadline for finding a longterm solution for the Suns, Quinn said those questions would need to be directed to Doug Harris, Washington’s director of player development.

A phone message seeking comment from Harris was not returned Monday.

After starting the 2013 campaign on the road, the Suns’ home opener is Thursday.

“We look forward to an exciting season in Hagerstown,” Quinn said.

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