Two years ago, the chances of the Hagerstown Suns still playing baseball in the Hub City appeared to be slim to none. But it’s looking like this troubled marriage between team and city will go on, as far ahead as 2018, for now.
The Suns have begun negotiations with the city to extend their stadium lease for two more years. The most recent lease extension they signed was in 2014, when the team still had their sights on leaving town for Fredericksburg, Va.
That deal fell through, and hopes of building a new stadium in Hagerstown have fallen on death ears in City Council.
“There would be more popular support, more council support and more community support for looking at investing in the facility we already own,” said Mayor David Gysberts.
The Suns play at Municipal Stadium, which has been active since the 1930’s. Its list of quirks includes more than just a lack of amenities – it has a glaring incline in the outfield, as well as mold in the home team’s showers.
“There are just a wide variety of issues that exist at the current facility,” said Bob Bruchey, former mayor of Hagerstown and currently the director of community affairs for the Suns. “And it’s old – I mean, face it. The showers are probably, themselves, 30 to 35 years old.”
This new proposal has the Suns continuing to pay the city $35,000 for rent per year, but it will now be reinvested back into Municipal Stadium for improvements. The city would also take over general maintenance of the building.
“There was a general concurrence with the proposal, so I think we have a green light there,” said city engineer Rodney Tissue. “I think people can look forward to seeing Suns baseball for three more seasons – 2016, ’17 and ’18.”
Now, the Suns will turn their attention to filling the stands. In the South Atlantic League, they’ve been last in attendance for the last five seasons.
“I certainly hope we can put to bed the issue, or the fear, that Hagerstown is going to sneak out in the middle of the night, like the Baltimore Colts sailed out of Baltimore,” Bruchey added. “We’re not doing that.”
The city is currently making amendments to the current lease, which will need to be approved by Mayor Gysberts and council members before any deal is made official.