Editor’s note: We have received a large number of letters to the editor concerning the proposed multiuse stadium in downtown Hagerstown. To publish as many as we can in a timely fashion, we are dedicating a second Opinion page to letters today.
Baseball died in Hub City when Orioles left
To the editor:
“The economic impact of a minor league team is not sufficient to justify the relatively large public expenditure necessary for a minor league stadium,” writes Arthur T. Johnson in “Minor League Baseball and Local Economic Development.”
In the book, Johnson examines 15 minor league stadiums (only one of which was examined in the Ripken study) finding that the economic impact of a minor league team is likely to be minimal. Time and time again, he finds minor league baseball stadiums have overpromised and underdelivered on direct economic development benefits.
Let’s ignore the success story of Greenville, S.C. (population 1.2 million), which has been touted by this newspaper and look for a minor league baseball stadium case study closer to home.
Johnson writes in the story of the Class A Frederick Keys, “The Carolina League chose to operate in Frederick rather than in Hagerstown because it was a better fit geographically. Frederick [...] promised a larger market area and a new stadium.” After years of poor attendance in Hagerstown, the Keys drew more fans than any other Class AA or Class A team during their second year (1991) at Harry Grove Stadium. The primary reason that the Keys have more than 4,200 fans per a game is not due to its stadium — Frederick’s demographics are strong with higher incomes and a larger population than Hagerstown. In addition, the stadium is easily visible from the highways and within walking distance of downtown. Still, there is considerable debate that the city loses money operating the ballpark.
In Harrisburg, Pa., Johnson tells the story of a city that used a stadium as part of a waterfront improvement plan, rather than the vision of an “outspoken and, at times, controversial mayor (Robert Young).” The stadium for the Class AA Harrisburg Senators was built in the early 1980s on City Island — land near downtown that “had become an eyesore and was perceived by the public to be crime-ridden.” The ballpark achieved success in redeveloping City Island, however, “there is no hard evidence [...] that this has ever been translated into new economic activity for the city,” writes Johnson. City leaders argue that “the team is an inappropriate expense for the city” and “the team brings little benefit to city residents, since most of the fans are suburbanites.”
The city made national news in 2011 as it “borrowed itself into bankruptcy,” according to The Wall Street Journal, “by sinking $45 million into 2009 stadium renovations for a money-losing minor league baseball team that attracted 2,500 fans per game.”
I believe baseball died in Hagerstown when the Orioles’ affiliation moved to Frederick in 1989.
Economic development officials should aggressively nurture and attract companies and institutions that can best use local resources. We should be championing efforts on logistics such as Greencastle’s $95 million Norfolk Southern facility and attract industries which support the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis area. This is the economic history of Hagerstown before commuter patterns in the 1970s saw Washington County as an alternative place to live. Remember, Hagerstown is within a reasonable commute to Baltimore or D.C. to view a Major League Baseball game and return home the same evening. It will not always be a reasonable and inexpensive daily commute for Baltimore or D.C. workers.
Robert H. Meyers
Were you asked if you wanted a new stadium?
To the editor:
Do the taxpayers want a new baseball stadium? Do the taxpayers want a new baseball stadium in downtown Hagerstown? Most of our elected officials obviously think the answer to both of the above questions is yes.
However, I don’t recall any of these elected officials asking me before they answered yes. None of the officials called me on the phone or sent me an email asking if I wanted a new stadium downtown. No one bothered to text me on my cellphone. I don’t recall receiving any polls or surveys concerning this in the mail. I wasn’t approached on the street by any elected official asking for my input regarding a new stadium downtown.
I’m just curious whether any of you other taxpayers were contacted in any way by your chosen representatives. Perhaps, there was a vote taken and I missed out on it. Maybe some of you also missed it. But, rest easy, folks. I’m sure that some of our elected reps know exactly what’s best for us without even asking.
It doesn’t bother me if we build a new stadium and I don’t care if it’s downtown or wherever. What does bother me is that the mayor and city council, along with three-fifths of our county commissioners, approved spending millions of dollars of funding for a downtown multi-use stadium without even as much as involving us. Once again, we were oblivious to most of our elected officials.
It’s a done deal, fellow taxpayers. The downtown multiuse stadium is all but built. Aren’t you even just a little perturbed?