Group goes to Annapolis to fight Towson stadium; Residents hand-deliver letters to legislators, give committees a petition


Dozens of state lawmakers in Annapolis received hand-delivered protest letters from Towson residents yesterday asking them to oppose the planned construction of a $28 million regional sports complex at Towson University.

Intensifying their campaign against the stadium plan, residents asked senators, delegates and the governor to deny funding for a "misguided plan" they say would increase traffic and noise, make parking more difficult and reduce property values.

Residents, who testified against the stadium at a University System of Maryland Board of Regents meeting Monday, delivered a petition with 270 signatures to members of appropriation and budget committees.

"They are far from guaranteed funding at this point," said Del. James M. Kelly, a Republican who represents the area. "Frankly, I think Towson University has not handled this well."

The university will request $20 million in funding from the General Assembly this session, but the school must first raise $8 million in private contributions.

In giving Towson permission Monday to move forward with the fund-raising process, the Board of Regents also required school officials to work with neighborhood residents.

"Towson University has failed miserably to provide us with straight, consistent answers on crucial concerns," said Diane Wittner, who lives on Stanmore Road.

School officials say expansion of the stadium -- home to lacrosse, football and track and field programs -- is needed to attract better athletes and prepare the school for increased enrollment.

The project would increase Minnegan Stadium's capacity from 5,000 to about 11,000, replace grass with artificial turf, add a four-level field house and expand the concession area.

The residents' letter said traffic congestion would make it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach two hospitals and would be more dangerous for children.

Residents also say water and sewage pipes and roads cannot handle the increase.

Campus officials disagree.

"There's no basis to any of this," said Wayne Edwards, Towson's athletic director. "I don't know how many times you can answer the same questions over and over and over, and people still don't believe you. Part of a college athletic program is having people come to games. I will never apologize for people cheering for our team, but that doesn't mean I want people coming in and destroying neighborhoods. The last thing we want is to be a bad neighbor."

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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