A new Hagerstown mayor and three new city council members will take office later this month, marking a change in leadership at City Hall.
And not a moment too soon, according to some residents like Michael Robinson, a 7-year resident of 181 Summit Ave., right across the street from the site where city’s proposed downtown multiuse sports and events center (MUSEC) might be built.
“If the stadium moves here, I am leaving,” Robinson said Thursday.
Robinson was one of several people who reacted Thursday to the results of city elections and how it could affect the proposed $37 million MUSEC project that could be the new home of the Hagerstown Suns.
Two incoming city council members, Penny Nigh and Don Munson, have both said that they would not support the current proposal to build at the downtown site near the corner of West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue.
Fellow Councilman-elect Kristin B. Aleshire hasn’t taken a position on the issue as of yet, while incumbent Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner and Martin Brubaker both still endorse it as currently proposed.
Mayor-elect David S. Gysberts, who easily defeated incumbent Robert E. Bruchey II, also hasn’t endorsed or denounced the project as it stands, saying he still needs more information. He has said he hopes the city can find a way to keep the Suns.
For residents who live nearby, it’s a matter of location, location, location.
“A lot of people here love the Suns, but the main thing is the downtown,” said Carol Smith, president of the tenant association at the C.W. Brooks Building off West Baltimore Street.
Next to the Brooks building is Potomac Towers, where several residents also expressed concern about the stadium being built across the street, mainly related to increased noise, traffic and other unwanted activities.
“I’d be for it and a lot of the residents would be for it if it was (built) somewhere else, not downtown,” she said. “And you’ve got three senior citizen groups here together ... so that’s one of the big reasons.”
Ralph Socks Jr., who lives at Potomac Towers, shares Smith’s feeling that the stadium shouldn’t be downtown. He said he was pleased with the outcome of the election.
“I think the new blood, new attitude, new opinions are liable to bring about unanswered questions at this particular point,” he said.
Pattie Horning of Hagerstown said her mother, who lives in the C.W. Brooks building, also is concerned with noise and traffic. However, Horning said she thinks the stadium would be a good project for the city to undertake.
“My kids go to the games all the time and they love it,” she said. “I’m not opposed to it. My mom really isn’t. She’s just concerned with the noise and the traffic.”
Robinson said he doesn’t agree with building the stadium downtown. He said he is hopeful the new council members coming to the table will be more receptive to the public opinion of the people who will be directly affected by the proposed stadium site.
“I think that the process will have changed,” he said. “I think there will be more input from different people and it won’t be shoved down our throats.”
Smith said her residents have been kept in the dark for much of the planning process and sometimes they felt like they “didn’t exist” in the eyes of city officials, which she hopes will change when the new members are sworn in later this month.
“The big thing here was the people didn’t like the idea of all the secrecy,” Smith said. “... I feel sure that the people that’s going in up there (the new city council), they are for the people. And I know they have to make certain judgments ... but at least they listen to us.”
Gysberts and the new five-member council will take their oath of office on Nov. 27.
Now with a cloud of negativity looming over the MUSEC project, does that re-open the door for Winchester, Va., to possibly attract the club?
Metzner said Wednesday that Suns officials have told the city that they will not continue to play at Municipal Stadium under any circumstance, which may leave the city without a team if they elect to renovate or rebuild the 82-year-old ballpark rather than move forward on the MUSEC.
Jim Deskins, director of Winchester’s Economic Development Authority, said Thursday that city officials there have not had any new discussions with the Suns.
Earlier this year, the Winchester’s EDA had been in talks about building a stadium facility for the team that would include a large up-front contribution from the Suns. Those talks later fizzled and lease negotiations with Hagerstown have been ongoing as city officials here continue to pursue the MUSEC project.
Phone messages left for Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn and minority owner Tony Dahbura were not returned Thursday night.