Stadium expansion heads to legislature

Residents near Towson U. worry about traffic, noise

November 22, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

As Towson University heads to the General Assembly to request money to expand Minnegan Stadium, angry community residents are asking state lawmakers and the Board of Regents once again to deny funding for the college's plans to build a $28 million regional sports complex.

Noting that community concerns about congestion and noise have not been addressed, Rodgers Forge residents sent a letter to Board Chairman Nathan A. Chapman Jr. and Chancellor Donald P. Langenberg of the University System of Maryland, urging them to stop expansion efforts.

The community also vowed to "continue to lobby against funding for this project as it relates to an 11,000-seat stadium until an acceptable solution is found."

The battle over Minnegan began more than a year ago, when Towson officials announced plans to double its stadium capacity, install artificial turf in place of natural grass, and add a field house with locker rooms.

Community groups have consistently expressed their objections to these plans by writing to legislators, circulating petitions and attending meetings about the project.

"The university and the Maryland Stadium Authority did hold meetings, but they weren't true community meetings," said Diane Wittner, a member of Rodgers Forge Community Inc. "They basically told us how they would facilitate the 11,000 people. There was no discussion of alternatives. They pretended like they took our concerns seriously. We are frustrated."

Residents worry that the expansion would increase traffic and noise, make parking more difficult, and reduce property values.

University officials say expansion of the stadium -- home to lacrosse, football, and track and field programs -- is necessary to attract better athletes and prepare the school for increased enrollment. In 1997, the university joined and now competes in the Patriot League in football. Most league members have stadiums with an average seating capacity of almost 14,000.

To meet those demands, a bigger stadium must be built, Towson officials said.

Despite a letter-writing campaign and petition from opponents, the Board of Regents in February approved Towson's proposal to build the complex, provided that school officials privately raise $8 million toward the cost and work with neighborhood residents who oppose the project.

"We have had a large number of meetings throughout the spring and summer, and community members were invited to all of them," said R. Wayne Edwards, director of Towson's athletic department. "I have never been involved with a process that has been more open.

"I really don't understand it at all," Edwards said of those who claim they haven't been consulted. "We have dealt with a lot of their concerns."

During the summer, Towson installed artificial turf in the stadium, began architectural design work and conducted impact studies with a $3 million appropriation the college received from the General Assembly.

The school is asking for $7 million for the next phase of construction, on the stadium's north side.

Towson hopes that construction will be completed by the beginning of 2003. "This is a small stadium," Edwards said. "This is not PSINet Stadium."

A traffic and parking study prepared recently by Rummel, Klepper & Kahl in Baltimore found that Towson could handle the added traffic, and would leave a parking surplus in the area.

The study also found that of the number and types of events that could be held at Towson, "approximately 95 percent, will be a size which could be accommodated in the existing 4,800-seat stadium."

Said Wittner: "Even their study says the expansion isn't necessary."

Pub Date: 11/22/99

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