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Hagerstown presented with new multiuse stadium study

It examines former Washington County Hospital site and two locations adjacent to Suns' current ballpark

April 23, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Dan Taylor, center, project manager for Ripken Design, spoke with the Hagerstown City Council Tuesday afternoon about several possible sites for a new stadium. At left is Patrick Farno with Ripken Design and at right is Hagerstown City Councilman Lew Metzner.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Ripken Design representatives went over its newest multiuse stadium feasibility study with Hagerstown officials Tuesday, and a long discussion ensued about the three alternative sites in the city’s East End.

“I want to see this get done,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said toward the end of a Hagerstown City Council work session at City Hall. “I think the citizens are looking for us to provide leadership.”

Assuming a facility costing about $30 million, the new study examines the former Washington County Hospital site and two locations adjacent to the Hagerstown Suns’ current ballpark on East Memorial Boulevard.

One concept, known as Concept A, would move the ballpark to the west of Municipal Stadium and overtop of Town Run, which would need to be covered and diverted to allow construction.

Concept B places a new stadium in a large portion of Hager Park, which was a topic of disapproval from several citizens who spoke later in the meeting during a public comment period.

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“We don’t have another park in that end,” said David Smith, a Hager Street resident. There is no other park for the children and the people in that neighborhood.”

The plan at the former hospital site would be the tightest of all three, being situated on only about 6.5 acres. It also presents numerous construction challenges due to sloping terrain and the possibility of citizen opposition in nearby residences similar to those heard from Summit Avenue residents when the downtown proposal was discussed last year, according to the report.

Dan Taylor, project manager for Ripken Design, said the report concludes that “hospital hill” — as Councilman Donald Munson calls it — presents the best chance to economic development in potential property tax increases, but the least on-site parking and overall space.

Suns minority owner Tony Dahbura, who spoke at the meeting, said the club prefers Concept B only because it appears to have fewer impediments for construction than the other sites.

“We’re site neutral,” he said. “We just need to get (it) done.”

The Suns and its parent club, the Washington Nationals, have deemed 82-year-old Municipal Stadium as no longer up to Major League Baseball standards.

Even though the team had its player-development contract extended through 2014, Dahbura said the clock has been clicking for the team to find a new facility and the Nationals have been “really pushing hard” to see that it gets taken care of.

Many communities are looking to land an amenity like a professional baseball team, Dahbura said, but the team wants to stay in Hagerstown if possible.

“We are a target of opportunity,” he said. “Our ownership has not been aggressively looking (at other locations) because of our connections to our community. We want to give Hagerstown every chance to keep baseball in Hagerstown.”

Funding continued to be the major issue as the five-member council discussed the report.

The elected body did not come to a consensus on a favorable site and took no action Tuesday. Further discussions will continue at an upcoming meeting, Gysberts said.

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