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WILL STADIUM BE `CROWN JEWEL’ OR MONEY PIT?

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Officials hope to begin work on creating the city's crown jewel this week when ground is broken for a $4.5 million baseball stadium.

Tuesday's ceremony comes after three years of fund raising to build a home for the city's Pioneer League baseball team, the Raptors, which now play at Serge B. Simmons field.Ogden leaders say the 3,000-seat stadium, scheduled for completion in June 1997, will also breathe new life into the downtown business district.

"We think the stadium will be a major magnet. It broadens the base of our appeal," predicted Mayor Glenn Mecham, saying the stadium will complement the city's other "jewels": Union Station, the conference center and historic 25th Street.

But a handful of critics, their skepticism rooted in what they say are broken promises by Mecham that Ogden Stadium would be funded by private donations, claim the groundbreaking will only start the excavation of a money pit for taxpayers.

In 1993, former City Councilwoman Bonnie McDonald embraced a proposal to contribute $750,000 of city funds to replace Simmons field with a new stadium.

She said Mecham pledged to raise enough private contributions to cover the major cost of the downtown stadium. But it never happened.

In 1994, Mecham came back to the council and asked for another $1.5 million. McDonald, who failed to defeat Mecham in last year's mayoral election, objected to the mayor coming back for more money.

"I'm for baseball in Ogden," McDonald said. "But I felt a responsibility to the taxpayers."

For now, the city will pay $2.025 million. The Legislature has promised $1 million. Other funding will come from $477,500 in pledged first-year donations and $272,500 of in-kind contributions.

Some construction costs will be paid for with $725,000 to be drawn against a $1 million donation by John E. Lindquist, Raptor co-owner and chairman of the city's baseball promotion and stadium development committee.

Mecham admits finding funding for the stadium has not gone as expected. But he blames it on the divisive talk by the City Council.

"People don't want to have their name or company name tied to some-thing of a controversy," he said.

As the project has moved closer to its starting date, contributions have picked up, and Mecham expects the trend to continue.

"After we hit some balls around (at the groundbreaking), some heavy machinery will move some ground. And then people will see something happening down there," he said.

Some $125,000 in donations have come in the past two months. The money will go toward future phases to add 2,000 seats.

Mecham said he is in "serious discussions" with seven corporations or families who have expressed interest in paying for naming rights.