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Towson offers task force to ease neighbors' stadium fears


Responding to resident concerns about traffic, trash and noise from a proposed $28 million expansion to its athletic stadium, the president of Towson University said last night the school will form a task force to keep neighbors informed of developments.

The task force will be made up of neighbors, business leaders, elected officials and university representatives.

"This task force is a good idea," said Towson President Hoke L. Smith. "There is no secrecy or privacy in this process. We want to work with the community."

Smith's comments came during a sometimes heated discussion at the university's Towson Run Apartments, where some neighbors voiced fears that an expanded Minnegan Stadium would become a site for the Olympics should the Baltimore-Washington area win the 2012 Summer Games.

"The neighborhoods feel blindsided by the university at every turn," said Robert Rinaldi, president of the Towson Manor Village Association. "The neighborhoods are looking for some kind of concession, meeting of the minds or compromise from the university.

"We all recognize the university is a tremendous resource and asset to our community," Rinaldi added. "But if I were to take a poll at Towson Manor, a good many people would have negative feelings about the university because of [what] we deal with already, like noise and student partying."

Trying to dispel rumors, school officials assured residents that the task force would help to solve problems such as traffic congestion, parking and noise. They also explained that the stadium expansion is necessary to attract better student-athletes and prepare for an expected jump in student enrollment over the next 10 years.

"The benefit of this expansion is the activities that will be held there, not the finances. We're not making money off of this," Smith said.

Although university officials have talked of expanding the stadium for years, Towson's move up to Division I-AA from Division II last year made the need more urgent.

The university has paid $200,000 to the Maryland Stadium Authority for a study on upgrading the facility. The university hopes to get most of the construction funds from the General Assembly, augmented by private donations.

It is hoped construction could begin next summer and be completed by 2001.

The project would take Minnegan Stadium's capacity from 5,500 seats to about 11,000, replace natural grass with artificial turf and add a four-level field house with locker rooms. The concession area for the stadium, home to the school's lacrosse, football and track and field programs, also would be expanded.

Some residents worried that an expanded stadium would be home to rock concerts, fireworks shows and rowdy high school events.

"I've lived in this area for 14 years now," said Susan Oslund, a Rodgers Forge resident. "I am terrified about the expansion."

School officials promised no rock concerts and said another advisory group could be created to review the types of events that would be held at the stadium.

"This is the first time any of these groups have talked to each other," said new County Councilman Wayne M. Skinner, who represents the Towson area and who set up last night's meeting. "It's a good start."

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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