Stadium no guarantee Suns will stay in Hagerstown
Majority owner says site, amenities are two top factors in choosing between Hagerstown and Winchester
Hagerstown Suns Head Groundskeeper Brian Saddler trims outfield grass Friday morning at Municipal Stadium. He is in his first year of grooming the Suns field. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / May 5, 2012)
And there is as yet no guarantee the Hagerstown Suns will remain in Hagerstown even if stadium plans move forward.
Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn said Thursday he is in the “preliminary stages” of talks with officials from both Hagerstown and Winchester, Va., which has been courting the team.
Quinn said where the team plays in the future comes down to a “business decision” aimed at keeping the Suns’ affiliation with the Washington Nationals.
The Major League Baseball team extended its player development contracts with its four other farm teams this spring, leaving the Nationals’ pact with the Suns to expire at the end of 2012.
In delaying the signing, the Nationals sent Quinn a letter informing him of upgrades required to bring Municipal Stadium, which opened in the 1930s, to the level at which it could house an affiliated team. Two of the major problems for compliance are the playing surface and the clubhouse facilities, Quinn said in February.
“We owe it to Hagerstown residents and our fan base” to stay in Hagerstown, Quinn said.
At the same time, he said, “We want to put this to bed as quickly as possible.”
A site for a stadium and certain amenities are two top factors to be considered when choosing between Hagerstown and Winchester, Quinn said.
Two amenities that are a priority for him in Hagerstown, Quinn said, are a stadium club with premium seating and a dining facility for fans, and an arcade on the concourse for children and families.
“That’s very important,” Quinn said.
The city needs to determine exactly where Quinn’s intentions lie, Hagerstown Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said last week.
“That’s a concern that, I think, we all collectively have and we’re going to be addressing in the very near future now that we have the city and county budgeting to fund $16 million,” he said.
Figuring the funding
In a joint meeting last Tuesday, the Washington County Commissioners and Hagerstown City Council agreed on a potential funding plan to build the $30 million complex at the corner of Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue.
The commissioners approved an indirect contribution to the effort by permanently taking over the city’s annual payment of $400,000 to fund the 911 emergency communications center.
In turn, the council agreed unanimously but unofficially to contribute that amount and a matching amount, for an annual contribution of $800,000 for 20 years toward the debt service of the stadium.
The council has scheduled a special session Tuesday to make its vote official, a step that would allow city staff to begin hashing out the terms of a long-term lease with Quinn.
Using the most conservative projection in a feasibility study by Ripken Design of Baltimore, it places the local debt service, which accounts for two-thirds of the total project, at about $20 million over 20 years.