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Winchester pitches Suns with new ballpark offer

Hagerstown SunsThe battle for the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League) continues, with Winchester (Va.) officials pitching lead owner Bruce Quinn with a revised proposal for a new ballpark.

The pitch follows weeks of inactivity from Winchester, which once was the leader to land the Suns but came up short after a proposed ballpark site and rather one-sided lease was rejected. Since then Hagerstown officials have moved forward with plans for a new downtown ballpark, with city and county entities pledging $16 million toward a new $30 million facility. The Suns would pay another $6 million over the course of a 20-year lease; the rest of the money could come from the state.

The Winchester offer is drastically different: it involves no new tax money but requires Quinn and his fellow owners to invest in a baseball-centered development, where the added revenue from all local/state sales taxes and restaurant taxes would be diverted to the project. That means Quinn and crew will need to become real-estate investors and restaurateurs as well as baseball operators; presumably it means Quinn and his fellow owners would need to borrow the money to make the deal work.

Jim Deskins, executive director of the Winchester Economic Development Authority, sounded pretty feisty about his city’s proposal:

“If Hagerstown, Washington County and the state of Maryland want to offer a public subsidy in the amounts they’re talking about for the rights to say they have a baseball team in their town, more power to them,” he said. “We’re not going to do it.

“If the taxpayers of Washington County and Hagerstown want to buy a baseball team, they can. Our deal has got to be a deal that stands on its own.”

No deadline on a decision; since Maryland can’t commit money to a new ballpark until 2013, there’s been no sense of urgency, although Hagerstown is ready to move ahead with design. A new Hagerstown ballpark wouldn’t open until 2015; Winchester officials say their plan would allow for a 2014 opening.

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