HAGERSTOWN —The Washington County Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to contribute up to $20,000 in county funds toward a stadium design study.
The study will be conducted by Baltimore firm Ripken Design at a cost estimated at $36,000, to be split between the city and county, Commissioner William B. McKinley said.
The vote formalized a consensus taken last month during a closed joint session between the commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council, the commissioners said.
McKinley said he wanted to repeat that decision publicly in the interest of openness because public support will be necessary if a stadium project moves forward.
Commissioners Terry Baker and Jeffrey A. Cline cast the no votes.
Baker said he supports a stadium but not public spending on a study because he does not feel he is being represented in the stadium planning process. He proposed forming a stadium planning group that would include a member appointed by each commissioner.
Asked later why he had voted no, Cline declined to comment other than to say, “I would love to keep the Hagerstown Suns in Hagerstown. It all depends on the money.”
Barr said after the meeting that the study was to include site design for a stadium, including plans for road and foot accessibility, on a specific site or sites. It will also compare and weigh different potential stadium sites, he said.
Discussions of building a multipurpose facility to replace the aging Municipal Stadium have been held on and off for more than a decade, but have heated up in recent weeks as owners of the Hagerstown Suns consider moving the team to Winchester, Va.
Hagerstown City Councilman William M. Breichner has said officials were discussing the area of the Baltimore Street Station Car Wash and The Herald-Mail parking lot off Summit Avenue as one possible site.
Baker said Tuesday he was concerned about escalating cost estimates, changing sites, the cost of road improvements to accommodate traffic to and from a downtown stadium, and what would happen to the project if the Hagerstown Suns finalize an agreement to move to Winchester.
“I believe the study will do a lot of what you want to see done,” McKinley told Baker.
Barr noted that the Maryland Stadium Authority would require a study to be done before a stadium would qualify for state funding. Stadium authority officials have said such studies typically cost more than $50,000 and take upwards of a year, Barr said. In contrast, the study by Ripken Design is expected to take two to three months, he said.
Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham stressed that the vote does not commit the county to anything but a study, adding she is a “strong advocate for the stadium” and thinks one should be built “if the numbers work.”