By C.J. LOVELACE
9:55 PM EST, December 11, 2012
Hagerstown Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn finally spoke publicly Tuesday about his intentions, outlining a concept proposal for a stadium facility that would keep the ball club in Hagerstown for decades to come.
Speaking to Mayor David S. Gysberts and the Hagerstown City Council during a work session at City Hall, Quinn’s $25 million stadium concept included $3 million in upfront money for naming rights as well as an annual rent payment of $105,000 over 30 years to fund a large portion of the private-sector share of financing.
With the likelihood of the anonymous $15 million donation for the city’s downtown stadium proposal dwindling, Quinn said team ownership decided it would put up the cash on the front-end to try to make it work, but also to reduce the team’s proposed $300,000 yearly rent in the downtown facility, which is about four times that of other minor league teams in smaller markets.
“We decided we needed to come in with some up front cash ... for the private sector, so it would qualify for the state (funding),” Quinn said. “Also, we listened loud and clear to the public. This is not a big moneymaker for us.”
The Suns’ concept, which didn’t include a proposed site, includes the $800,000 annual payment for 20 years from the city-county contribution — just like the downtown proposal — and assumes the Maryland Stadium Authority to foot the bill for about $564,863 each year for two decades.
Additional revenue toward the 20-year debt service would include about $21,000 annually in admission taxes and the remaining $75,000 of estimated admission tax revenue would be set aside in a capital improvement fund, Quinn said.
“It’s an affordable plan for both,” he said. “It creates stability for us. It allows the city to finance within the realm of what they’re comfortable with as city leaders and it let’s the state give their one-third.
“It’s more realistic,” Quinn said. “... We’re not in politics. We’re just in baseball.”
The concept proposal did not stipulate a specific site to build the new facility, but Quinn stressed that it could not be built on the footprint of the current ballpark, Municipal Stadium.
Quinn suggested that it could be built in proximity to Municipal Stadium, like Hager Park or one of several blighted industrial properties in the East End, and could spur large-scale economic development in that area of the city.
While it’s only a concept idea, Gysberts said Quinn’s presentation shows that he is willing to work with city officials in trying to find a resolution as soon as possible.
“Obviously, we have a crunched time line to try to get something resolved before the next season starts for the Hagerstown Suns,” the mayor said. “I think that’s completely doable. I think the fact that (Quinn) was willing, he volunteered to come and speak in public shows that he is willing to commit to an open process.”
Quinn’s concept calls for stadium construction to cost between $21 million and $22 million. He said his initial cost estimates were based on the four most recently built ballparks in the Suns’ low-level Class A league, the South Atlantic League. He then added additional money into the estimate for demolition or other needed site work.
Councilman Martin E. Brubaker pointed out during the council’s conversation with Quinn that the city’s share of debt for the project would be “at least as much if not more” than the city’s downtown proposal, and any needed site acquisition was not included in the estimates.
However, with the search for a new facility ongoing for the better part of a year now, Quinn said time is truly of the essence for the team now.
The Suns cannot endure another season playing in Municipal Stadium because of its dilapidated condition, which has been deemed subpar by professional baseball standards, Quinn said, adding that the uncertainty of the team staying or going is hurting the team monetarily in the form of lost sponsorships.
“I was very delighted with the city council’s response today,” Quinn said afterward.
Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said Quinn’s proposal shows that he wants to keep the team in Hagerstown and he is willing to step up to the plate by contributing a large sum of money upfront toward a project to get a new stadium built, wherever that may be.
“I think we’re back in the ballgame,” he said. “It’s just a matter of crunching numbers.”
Gysberts said discussions on a new plan to keep the Suns in Hagerstown will be ramping up in January, with the five-member council’s Jan. 8 work session slated as the first of several open public meetings that month to hash out the details and gather citizen feedback.
“I think we’re just continuing to move the process forward in a more public way,” he said. “But the main thing is we’re not giving up. We’re going to do our best to keep the Hagerstown Suns in town.”
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