With one speaker vowing to fight the city “tooth and nail” over the issue, the proposal to build a $30 million stadium at West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue hit organized opposition at a Hagerstown City Council meeting Tuesday night when 910 signatures against the project were presented to council members and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II.
The people who signed “letters of concern” said they instead want the city to save the 80-year-old Municipal Stadium.
Speakers at the meeting expressed concerns about the cost of the proposed new stadium, how it misses an opportunity to capitalize on the city’s historic nature and how people have had no input.
“You’re putting it in front of them and saying this is what’s going to happen. They have no say in it,” Barbara Hovermill said.
Later in the meeting, the council members approved the introduction of an ordinance allowing the city to issue and sell general revenue bonds not to exceed $9.210 million. Part of the money, $4.42 million, would be for early-stage tasks toward construction of the new ballpark.
But city officials emphasized that just because the council approved introduction of the ordinance, that does not mean the money will be spent.
Council members still have to adopt an ordinance to proceed with the issuance and sale of the bonds, which is scheduled for a vote on Sept. 11, City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.
Council members would then have to vote on a resolution for the bonds and that would probably happen in the fall, Zimmerman said.
Council member Forrest Easton abstained from the bond vote because he was absent from a work session on the issue and did not feel he was informed enough to vote.
When people in opposition to the stadium were speaking, Bruchey said the city has not started any work on the stadium like purchasing buildings.
“We haven’t issued any bonds. We haven’t agreed on a lease with the (Hagerstown) Suns,” Bruchey told the crowd.
Julie Rivett, who lives on the 100 block of Summit Ave., delivered the 910 signatures to council members and Bruchey in a large blue bag that had “Save Historic Municipal Stadium” written on it.
Rivett said concentrating on keeping Municipal Stadium will only cost about half of what city officials want to spend on the new stadium.
“In these hard economic times, we cannot be wasteful,” Rivett said.
Rivett said another reason that Municipal Stadium is a better move for the city is because the city already owns about 130 acres around the old ballfield that could be used for economic development associated with baseball.
Rivett told city officials that if they continue to ignore the “people’s voices” over the new stadium concerns, her group will get more signatures against the project.
Harold Edward Wills, who has lived on Summit Avenue for 67 years, told council members how he has watched Hagerstown go from a thriving town to a “blighted, crime-ridden community.” Wills said if the city continues to push forward with the stadium, the opposition to it will “fight you tooth and nail” and “we will do everything we can” to stop it.
Joe Lane of Smithsburg said the new stadium misses out on an opportunity to capitalize on the area’s history. Lane said everyone is always talking about how unique Municipal Stadium is and keeping the new ballfield is an example of how Hagerstown can brand itself as a community that showcases its history.
“Every time we tear down a piece of our history, we de-brand,” Lane said.
Former Hagerstown City Council member Penny Nigh criticized the stadium for its price tag of “$30 million and growing.”
Nigh said one property owner in the area of the proposed new stadium stands to gain significantly from the project.
“This is the purpose for a lot of this,” Nigh said.
Editor's note: This story was edited to correct the spelling of Barbara Hovermill's last name.