Using projections from a consultant’s report as “more of a road map than a prescription,” Hagerstown Economic Development Manager Jill Estavillo said Wednesday that a proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center could bring 224,000 new visitors to City Center each year.
“And we’ll have additional visitors from nonbaseball events,” Estavillo told about 100 people in the Cumberland Room of the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Hagerstown.
Add an estimated 500,000 people a year who are expected to visit the Washington County Regional Free Library, which is slated to open next year on South Potomac Street, and it will cause a “dramatic change to foot traffic” in the downtown area, she said.
“If you think of the two projects side by side in the core of the city, the dramatic change that will happen to foot traffic in the community” is substantial, Estavillo said.
Estavillo’s comments came during a monthly “Eggs & Issues” breakfast to update the public on the city’s progress toward constructing the proposed facility that would be the new home to the Hagerstown Suns.
Estavillo summarized what has taken place so far, such as funding commitments from the city and Washington County.
She also discussed what still needs to take place, including securing a long-term lease with the Suns and acquiring state funding for one-third of the project’s estimated $30 million price tag, which includes an adjacent parking deck with about 400 spaces.
City officials have ruled out other locations for the project, while the renovation of Municipal Stadium is not feasible due to site constraints, said Estavillo, who serves as the project manager.
If nothing is done, the Suns, who are being actively courted by officials in Winchester, Va., could leave the community for good, Estavillo said, resulting in the loss of an amenity that few cities across the nation have.
“The quality of life that a vibrant downtown gives to our community is also a reason to do this project,” she said. “The strength of our region is dependent on the strength of our core, and taking no action is a threat to the region and (its) economy.”
Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the tract at the corner of Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue is “the site,” and the facility would create a downtown destination to help spur economic redevelopment in the city’s struggling core.
The project is not viewed “as a single shot in the arm that is going to change downtown,” but a continuation of investments, Estavillo said.
Recent investments, including the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, Barbara Ingram School for the Arts and county free library, have put the city on a path toward reaching a “tipping point” for downtown, she said.
With numerous incentives available for building in Hagerstown’s Arts and Entertainment District, enterprise zones and areas identified for Partnerships in Economic Progress programs, there is no better time than now for this type of investment, she said.
“There’s tremendous opportunity for the private sector,” Estavillo said, noting that the city is already seeing interest from potential investors.
She said many issues remain up in the air, but city officials are working to identify solutions as the project progresses, such as using new technologies to control light and noise pollution around the proposed site.
The event was sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, Agricultural Marketing Division.