The report concludes Baltimore Street simply works best. The existing stadium is briefly dismissed. No engineering analysis on construction costs is provided. Potential revenue is generically calculated. Transportation is barely mentioned. Impacts to neighboring properties merely reference severe tax increases. Comparable "downtown" stadiums, on pages 20-28, indicate the existing stadium location offers much greater similarities in terms of known construction costs, adjacent development potential, public accessibility and neighborhood expectation. In spite of these advantages or those of other locations, analysis typical of project site selection was not conducted. Yet, the report concludes a new stadium could keep the Suns "no matter where it's located."
Pages 12 and 13 are most important. They specify that Suns ownership should get 100 percent of revenue from naming rights, suite rentals, corporate sponsorships, vendor contracts, franchise agreements and nonbaseball events. They'll also have scheduling authority over all stadium activities, but aren't required to maintain a Nationals affiliate. Meanwhile, the city will be solely responsible for 100 percent of the estimated $459,000 annual operations, maintenance and utility costs. This reason, the consultant concludes, is that "minor league teams are professional organizations with expertise" in this field and "public entities are not."
The cost figures seem to work. However, acquisition and demolition costs rest with the city, who'll depend on surcharges and debt. The county portion assumes increased admissions and donating property, and the state's projected to lose about $5 million. Pages 84-86 project net profits within four to six years, and reinforces the necessity of private support, while failing to outline any reason private investment couldn't take on this low risk directly. Recent history of other downtown projects indicate upwards of 30 percent cost overages from concept to construction, supporting the report's warning that "aggressive timelines result in massive cost escalation and overruns."
Cursory evaluations in the report conclude we are "an isolated community with limited entertainment options" to explain the consultant's eagerness for the architectural design contract because "this is a highly specialized industry." City-supported websites infer that if you don't support this project you don't support downtown. Having read the report, the evidence clearly supports Commissioner Barr's statement that "this is not the best location" and Councilman Brubaker's point that "the Suns ownership gaining everything is ridiculous." To avoid likely failure of the cost/benefit model, these two factors must be fully vetted and decisions made based on sound information rather than fear and haste. While some may claim this overanalysis, I tend to think of it as an important part of the job.
Kristin B. Aleshire
Editor's note: Kristin B. Aleshire is a candidate for Hagerstown City Council.
Building stadium in heart of city is right choice
To the editor:
Countless rumors have circulated about the Hagerstown Suns' potential move to Winchester, but let's focus on facts.
Minor league baseball provides many benefits, including an economic lift. There are jobs through stadium construction and many more during the season. Then, there are the players requiring housing, food and entertainment, and the visiting teams needing the same.
On roughly 70 nights each season, fans experience competitive play, share in community identity and pride, recognize up-and-comers, follow their careers and catch glimpses of current major-leaguers who are sent to the minors during recovery from injuries. If the stadium is a multiuse facility, it will be used for events benefiting the community throughout the year with affordable family entertainment.
The Suns need a stadium, so site location is a major consideration. Several have been proposed with positives and negatives. If a stadium is built conveniently off the highway, there would be less traffic. However, if we're to capitalize on potential economic boosts brought by the games, the downtown location is the best option.
Having attended games at the Redskins' FedEx Field, at the Ravens' stadium and at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there's no comparison. FedEx is outside of D.C. with little around. Fans resort to hauling food and drinks, grills and games for tailgating before events and leave promptly afterward. While Baltimore supporters park in decks to spend their time and money at local establishments for food, drinks and impulse buys. Building a stadium in the heart of our city, as Baltimore has done, will raise property values and allow visitors to experience what our city has to offer.
If you don't believe me about why we need to keep the Suns here where they belong, just ask Winchester. In the words of Mayor Robert Bruchey, "There are no missed opportunities. If we don't take it, someone else will."
Brenna Bacon Ranieli