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New Hagerstown ballpark yet again on tap

Atlantic League 2018After years of futility spent on a new Hagerstown Suns ballpark, local officials are once again looking at a new facility plan, this time for an Atlantic League team with local ownership.

As you’ll recall, the Suns–a former member of the Low A Sally League not invited to part of the new 120-team MiLB structure–and owner Bruce Quinn spent years on new-ballpark proposals to replace Municipal Stadium. Much of the work focused on a new downtown facility designed to drive additional economic development, but the lack of consensus on any plan led to Quinn placing the team on the market and looking to move the team out of Hagerstown. In the end, he ran out of time and folded the Suns after the decision by Major League Baseball to exclude the Suns from 2021 play. A new ballpark would surely have saved the Suns.

So now we have a local group seeking a new ballpark for an independent Atlantic League team. Right now we’re at the pitch phase: a local group has approached Washington County Commissioners about a new ballpark and say they have a provisional membership in the Atlantic League with the condition that a team would play in a new ballpark meeting league standards. (Municipal Stadium apparently is a nonstarter.) From the Hagerstown Herald-Mail:

Howard “Blackie” Bowen, CEO and chairman of the board of Ewing Oil Co., would lead the ownership group. He said he’s already started talking with others about joining him.

“Outside ownership doesn’t work the same way local ownership does,” he said.

“I want people who are committed to this community, who care about this community, who do business in this community and who will support this project by buying billboards or skyboxes or season tickets, entertaining their employees and customers at the ballpark,” Bowen told the commissioners.

Right now there’s no plan for who would finance and build a ballpark, never mind where it would be located and what sort of development might accompany it. State Sen. Paul Corderman (R-Washington) is pitching the ballpark as an economic-development tool, but his suggestion that the Maryland Stadium Authority–which had been looking at funding a new Suns ballpark–build and run the ballpark may be beyond the scope of what that state authority would tackle. As you might expect, county commissioners were noncommittal: by and large the county sat out planning for a new Suns ballpark (the city led that campaign), and the same politics that doomed the Suns effort will surely reemerge once something more specific is proposed.

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