Officials from Charles County and Maryland Baseball LLC gave their first public presentation of a rendering of a proposed 4,500-seat stadium in Hughesville that would house a minor league baseball team as early as 2006.

"It is my belief and my hope that the vast majority of citizens in Charles County will view this as a very positive thing, and we can move forward with it," said Charles County Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large).

The county and Maryland Baseball have each committed $6 million toward the stadium and seek the same from the state. The project has sharply divided the community of Hughesville, often described as the geographical center of Southern Maryland, between those who see the stadium as a linchpin toward economic development, and others who want the town of 1,500 to maintain its rural charm and shift the county's input toward new schools.

"A lot of people say [the stadium's] a done deal, and that's because it was presented that way from Day One," said Donna Cave, the chairman of Preserve Hughesville, a newly formed citizens group seeking to block the stadium's development. "We've had no input at all up to this point."

Maryland Baseball, which developed stadiums in Bowie, Hagerstown, and Delmarva, has hired the Wilmington, Del., firm TetraTech to design the stadium and has secured the Maryland Stadium Authority as the project's construction manager. The initial plan includes 12 luxury boxes, picnic areas on a hill behind the outfield fence, a playground and other youth recreational spots.

Maryland Baseball also launched a Web site www.namesouthernmarylandsteam.com inviting ideas for the team name. The person who offers the winning idea would get lifetime season tickets. Maryland Baseball Chairman Peter Kirk said he hopes to have a team named and assigned to Hughesville by the end of the year.

-- Alan Goldenbach