Tuesday’s municipal elections in Hagerstown may have complicated efforts to build a new downtown ballpark for the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League), but the deal is far from dead.
The election saw two anti-ballpark members elected to the City Council, two pro-ballpark members elected to the City Council, in addition to a swing vote and a new mayor who wants to see the final lease before making a decision. That makes the deal struck between the Suns, the city and the county far from dead, and we suspect one of the two anti-ballpark folks will end up changing their minds when the get out of campaign mode and into governing mode: they both think it won’t take much to fix up Municipal Stadium to meet MiLB standards. (It will not be cheap to fix up Municipal Stadium because of the poor land underneath the playing field — drainage there is a tremendous challenge — and the lack of associated economic activity at the relatively remote site.)
If the City Council does walk away from a downtown ballpark deal, we would expect Bruce Quinn and the rest of the Suns ownership to walk away. It doesn’t sound like Winchester, Va, which once wooed the Suns, may have much of a shot to land the team; assuming Herb Simon will build a new ballpark (the latest unsubstantiated rumor from Winchester baseball partisans) is a pretty laughable concept given Simon’s recent experiences in Reno with ballpark building, and there are plenty of cities in the Sally League footprint (Columbia, Kinston, etc.) that would welcome the Suns with open hands and pocketbooks. And, of course, there’s always the independent Atlantic League.
The irony in all the ballpark posturing: very little city money is at stake here, with the majority of the budget coming from two large donations and a potential state contribution — $15 million from the donors, $10 million from the state and $6 million from the Suns. Very little in the project budget at this time is coming from either the city or Washington County; it’s not as though city coffers would magically swell if the ballpark project was killed.
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