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Hagerstown: Yes, we really do want a downtown ballpark

Hagerstown SunsChanging course once again in a last-minute attempt to retain affiliated baseball, a majority of Hagerstown City Council members now support a new downtown site preferred by the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League).

Suns ownership had set their sites on a new downtown ballpark that would anchor additional development. But the City Council rejected that plan and instead steered ballpark planning to some borderline sites outside the city core. In response, Bruce Quinn entered into some serious negotiations with Fredericksburg (Va.) officials on a ballpark/baseball camp complex near the Celebrate Virginia site. Faced with the potential loss of the Suns, the city council is now reconsidering the downtown site. From the Hagerstown Herald-Mail:

Councilman Donald F. Munson — who got elected last year running on a platform that opposed a downtown stadium — publicly pledged his support for the downtown location on Tuesday at City Hall, saying he sees little else in the way of large projects that can help re-energize the city’s downtown tax base while retaining the minor league baseball team.

“I saw no real future for downtown Hagerstown,” Munson said, noting that the decision caused “real agony” for him. “I just think we need to give this a try.”

Munson said it was the first time he flip-flopped on a major issue in his decades of public services, but in weighing what needs to be done for the future of the city, he decided it was necessary.

The move, announced at a council meeting, gets the downtown project back on track. The former funding sources — $400,000 annually from Washington County, $6 million from the Suns — need to reaffirmed, and the state sports authority will be lobbied to come up with $10 million for the $36-million project. Suns ownership now has two offers on the table, but both are tentative and both have some issues with funding: there are holes on the Hagerstown funding formula, while the Fredericksburg project will be privately financed.

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