WASHINGTON COUNTY —If the proposal for a new multiuse sports and events center in downtown Hagerstown is to become a reality, a meeting Tuesday afternoon might prove critical.
City and Washington County officials will meet at 3 p.m. to find out if all parties are on board for the project and to begin to discuss funding options for the $30 million facility that would house the Hagerstown Suns baseball team.
After the Board of County Commissioners holds its own discussion at 9:30 a.m., a joint meeting with the Hagerstown City Council will take place inside the council chamber at City Hall.
Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he hasn’t gotten any definite commitments from county officials that they are in favor of building the complex, but guessed that they would be in favor of “doing something for the downtown.”
“I’m pretty optimistic that things are going in the right direction,” he said.
Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham said the commissioners would be discussing options for how the county might contribute funding to the project.
“I am anxious to have that conversation,” Callaham said.
She said the project, as proposed, seems “very doable” and would benefit the community, but she wanted to hear from County Administrator Gregory B. Murray about options for county funding before making up her mind on the issue of a county contribution.
“If it is affordable to the county, I would like to make it possible for the city to get it done,” she said.
The other four commissioners did not return calls Monday afternoon.
Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he’s received a “large amount” of public support via email for the project that would put a ballpark at the corner of East Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue, and he anticipates support from the commissioners.
“What I would anticipate is trying to put together the appropriate funding package with the last key of that package being private investment,” Metzner said. “And I think that is the linchpin to all of this now.”
According to the feasibility study by Ripken Design, the Suns would be responsible for annual rent payments of $300,000 annually for 20 years.
However, Bruchey said last week that the team’s contribution would likely be closer to the $500,000 to $600,000 range each year.
Additionally, the board of directors for the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently approved a contribution of up to $60,000 annually for six years toward the project, according to Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the local CVB.
“The board of directors passionately believed that the new facility will not only be a significant renewal project, but also an amenity and an attraction,” Riford said, reading from the board’s letter to the county commissioners.
The funds will be paid out of the CVB’s allotment of hotel-motel tax collected by the county, Riford said.
The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce also issued a statement Monday expressing its support for the project.
“Similar downtown projects in other cities have proven a boon to economic development, and the chamber fully anticipates increased investment — and increased assessments — in the area immediately surrounding the complex and beyond,” Chamber President Brien Poffenberger said in the statement.