June 26 – When you look around the Hub City these days, you can find a whole lot of projects underway.
One of the biggest ones is the new baseball stadium coming to downtown – about a block and a half from city square.
Greg Snook, president and CEO of the Washington County Industrial Foundation, said, “We are currently under construction and working with the Maryland Stadium Authority and Turner Construction, which is out of Baltimore. We are digging, moving dirt and pouring concrete, setting steel or rebar.”
The first pitch is slated to be thrown late May next year or early June.
Snook said, “Hopefully we won’t have any delays, but there is so much happening over there. We had bought about four properties to make this project happen, and worked with the Maryland Stadium Authority to make that happen. It’s exciting. Probably going to have somewhere between $80 and $90 million in this project and it is funded through the state of Maryland. They issued bonds for it and those bonds will be paid by the debt service from the lottery proceeds.”
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “It’s a huge impact in downtown Hagerstown. You’re born and raised here. So you’ve seen some amazing times and some challenging times. It’s emerging. It’s springtime I would say.”
Snook agreed, “We have tried to work with various groups in this downtown core to make Hagerstown a better place. By bringing in this, our goal is to not only build a baseball stadium but create a better environment around it, bringing in new businesses, raising property values, and bringing in residential growth also. That’s the intention is to get feet on the street, be able to keep the restaurants moving and some of the small shops that are here. Between that and then the city of Hagerstown is also working on a parking deck, which is joining the cultural trail which will connect to the baseball stadium. So that is starting as we speak. And that’s about a year’s project. So they’ll all kind of finish at the same time.”
Ryan said, “This must be an exciting time because you were born and raised, you were on the commissioners for a very long time here and now you get to see these projects start lifting off here.”
Snook said, “It’s not just here in Hagerstown, but the whole community has now started to try and figure out what we want to be when I grow up. We deserve a lot of this stuff, not only with the stadium, but of course then the new medical school and things are happening out at HCC. It’s exciting to be here and I think there’s a lot more excitement from the community too because they’ve embraced this. We’ve still got a lot of work, a long way to go, but we’re definitely making big strides with some of these projects.”
The Snook family has been involved in local politics for many years.
Snook said, “We’ve been blessed over the course of the years. My uncle was the first into politics back in the 60s and then my dad became a commissioner in the 70s and was there until his passing and ’89. I was elected in the 90s and went the whole way to 2007. It was enjoyable. I loved every minute. I met so many great people, got involved in a lot of state boards and I’m still involved in some state boards to this day. But time to back away, let some new thinking happen. But I’m never going to move away. I mean, my kids and grandkids are here.”
Snook believes having a business sense can help in elected office.
He said, “Because it is a business and sometimes there are some risks, but you have to measure those risks to make sure that you’re doing a project that’s for the benefit for infrastructure, whether it’s a water and sewer plant or whether it’s a new road or whether it’s a school, but you have to bring in the business. The business is what pays the bills to allow the community to grow and thrive. I mean, we have new leadership also, both at the college level. We have new leadership down at the library, new leadership at the museum. So we have a new generation of individuals coming in thinking about and trying to implement master plans. It is succeeding and there are individuals that want to be a part of that. So you create that environment and bring them with you to accomplish those projects.”
What else needs to grow in Hagerstown?
Snook said, “I’d like to see us continuing our higher education here in this community. I mean, we have HCC and then we have USMH. I’d like to see USMH expand a little bit more and offer programs to keep those young adults here in our community because you need to have multi-generations of individuals. But make it a place where they want to come and stay. I think having a little bit more presence of higher education. Of course the other project HCC is working on is the trade school truck driving program out there on Northern Avenue. That’s in conjunction with the ABC, the Association of Builders and Contractors. You have to have your trades thriving also to have this growth. So you just don’t hit it from one side. You have multiple facets.”
What’s been the best part of Snook’s journey?
He said, “I would say, looking back, I feel that the environment that we created out of the airport has been very positive for me. It’s one of the gems of the county now. Back many moons ago when the county bought it back from the city of Hagerstown and the county expanded it and then we put in the terminal and then we got a commercial airline service here. I think that has set us aside from any other little community in the state of Maryland. Now we have flights twice a week, sometimes three times a week, to Florida or Myrtle Beach. It has created an aviation business out there that a lot of communities don’t have. So we have a trade school that is training technicians and we have you T hangars over there for the private jets that come up and want to stay here, but I’ve always thought that having the airport has been a nice gem for our community.”