The Hagerstown Suns' owners reportedly signed a letter of intent with the city of Winchester, VA in hopes of relocating the franchise from Municipal Stadium (above), the Class-A Suns' home since 1981. (photo © Ed Chigliak, Federal Baseball)
Last week there were reports of the Washington Nationals' search for a new Spring Training home which passed for big news during the slowest part of the slowest month in any baseball fan's life. This weekend, reports out of Hagerstown, MD and Winchester, VA say that the owners of the Nats' Class-A affiliate signed a letter of intent a few weeks back with the Virginia city of 26,000+ to move the Low-A Suns out of Hagerstown, south down Interstate 81 across the border and into a proposed new stadium. In an article entitled, "Hagerstown officials considering two sites for new stadium", by Hagerstown Daily-Herald writer Dan Dearth, Hagerstown City Councilman William Breichner's quoted stating that the Maryland city is considering local sites to replace Municipal Stadium, "one of the three oldest Minor League baseball stadiums in the country," and the Suns' home since 1981 which hosted Bryce Harper last season and several well-attended starts by a rehabbing Stephen Strasburg...
The Daily-Herald's Mr. Dearth reports that Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey is aware of the letter of intent the Suns' owners signed with Winchester, VA, but still in communication with team officials about keeping the team in Hagerstown. As the Daily-Herald reporter notes, "... the Suns will be required to enter into a lease agreement with Winchester if city officials there and the Winchester Economic Development Authority complete three objectives by April 17,":
"According to the letter, those objectives are the formal approval and execution of the lease agreement by the WEDA; transfer of ownership of the property for the stadium’s construction from the city of Winchester to the WEDA; and approval of funding for the project by the city of Winchester."
If the "objectives" are met before the 4/17 deadline, the Hagerstown Daily-Herald reporter says the Suns' owners would then make the move or be forced to pay back, "... all expenses incurred by the city of Winchester and the (Winchester Economic Development Authority) in furtherance of this project, including but not limited to the Brailsford & Dunlavy feasibility study and the HKS initial architect contracts to a maximum of $75,000." Mr. Breichner, the Hagerstown City Councilman, is quoted at the end of the article cautioning that, "A commitment to move to Winchester doesn’t mean Winchester will eventually support it," and noting that a new stadium is a "significant financial burden" for any city to take on.
• LINK: "Reports have Suns Fan Club clinging to hope" - Bob Parasaliti, Hagerstown Daily-Herald.
Hagerstown Daily-Herald writer Bob Parasaliti reported on Friday that following the announcement of the Suns' ownership signing the letter of intent to relocate the team, the city of Hagerstown, "... has countered with reports of a possible lease package on the horizon, geared to keeping the Suns and building a new stadium complex or refurbishing Municipal Stadium." The stadium is 80-years-old, however, and with the city of Winchester proposing, "... to build a $15 million, state of the art stadium, which would have multiple uses," the Suns' future in Hagerstown is in question. One longtime fan quoted in the article tells the Daily-Herald's Mr. Parasliti, "'It’s just been by dumb luck that we have been able to keep baseball here. This is like anything else. Anyone who wants to have a great future has to invest in it.'"
• Potomac Nationals: The Nationals had well-publicized issues with their other Virginia-based affiliate in Potomac in 2011, with D.C. GM Mike Rizzo at one point issuing a statement questioning the safety of the field conditions which he said at the time had been worsened by recent renovations. The GM's comments led to a public squabble that played out in the press. MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr wrote earlier this winter about renovations that were made to Pfitzner Stadium, which included, "a brand new grass field, installed last month, replacing the entire maligned surface from last year," and the hiring of a full-time groundskeeper. The P-Nats, however, are still considering plans to build a new stadium as InsideNova.com's Robert Daski reported recently in an article entitled, "New P-Nats stadium may be along I-66."