Hagerstown Suns fans stress importance of team to town
Hagerstown Suns Fan Club member Chick Meehan, right, talks about having a minor league team in town as Dan Spedden, another club member, listens during a press conference at Municipal Stadium on Wednesday. (By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer)
"In the evening after a day of work, I come home, we all jump in the car, we go to the stadium, and when I open the door to get out, I can hear the music playing on the speakers and I can hear the rumble of the crowd and people in line, and you just get — this feeling kind of washes over you, like you know you're about to enter that stadium and you're going to have a great time for the next two or three hours," Spedden said. "I don't ever want to lose that feeling."
Spedden was one of several Hagerstown Suns Fan Club board members who gathered for an informal news conference Wednesday evening at Municipal Stadium to talk about their desire to see the Suns remain in Hagerstown.
Their comments come amid rumors that the Suns' owners are negotiating to move the team to Winchester, Va., after failing to garner enough public funding support for a makeover of the 80-year-old, city-owned Municipal Stadium.
Team co-owner Tony Dahbura has said the owners have an offer from another city and that without a stadium renovation project — which would carry a long-term lease commitment — the team is likely to leave town.
While the city of Hagerstown has committed funding for a stadium renovation, the Washington County Board of Commissioners have said they want to review a written proposal before committing a county contribution of hotel-motel tax revenue.
Fan club board members agreed Wednesday night that a stadium renovation project would be the key to keeping the Suns.
"This has been a nice home for us for three decades; I think it can continue to be, if we can maintain appropriate, professional baseball, modern day standards," said fans club board member Todd Bolton.
Spedden said going to Suns' games helped him make friends when he was new to the community. Now, he is a fixture at the games, walking up and down the stands selling raffle tickets for autographed bats to raise money for the fan club.
"In my opinion, the Suns have always been the 'little team that could,'" he said. "I have been living with this one- and two-year contract thing, this anxiety, my whole life here (since moving to the area). I'm just looking forward to a time when there's, gosh, a five-year agreement or a six-year agreement so that you could settle in and know that you didn't have to fight hard to keep baseball in town for one more year."
Chick Meehan, another fan club board member, spoke of going to Suns games with his son, who is now grown and brings his own children.
"It's a real nice family experience, and there are not too many places in Hagerstown where you can do that," Meehan said.
"I think it would be a great loss to the community" if the team left, he said.
The Hagerstown Suns' Fan Club was established in 1986 and consists of more than 150 of the team's most loyal fans, according to the club's Facebook page.