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Old stadium property in Newell, West Virginia, to house new Chrysler dealership

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The Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle has found a buyer for the old Newell stadium property: a western Pennsylvania auto dealer who is going to build a state-of-the-art dealership on the site.

P.J. Latsko, owner of Beaver County Chrysler, will pay approximately $250,000 for the near 3.5-acre site, BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said. The business will use the proceeds to pay down its $500,000 debt to Hancock County commissioners, which sold it the Newell stadium along with two Weirton properties -- the old Weir High stadium and an old firehouse.

“The reason it’s approximate is that we haven’t factored in all of the closing costs, things of that nature,” Ford said.

For now, the dealership will operate from the space the former C. Hackett dealership had leased from the Mangano family before filing for bankruptcy. The dealership will open for business Monday, July 28, and will sell new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram trucks, as well as used cars.

“P.J. would like to build an environmentally-friendly, state-of-the-art facility, which puts smiles on the Chrysler executives' faces,” said Sean Broadbent, sales manager for the new dealership. But, because Chrysler has “specific building requirements” that must be met, he said they don’t know yet how big an investment will be required.

“Some of the specifics about cost are still undeveloped,” he said. “But as far as Chrysler is concerned, as far as P.J Latsko and the BDC are concerned, the sooner the better. We want to make a splash with it, we want it to be something that is groundbreaking. We don’t want it to be ho-hum, but the faster we get started the better.”

Broadbent said the business will start with 20 employees, with additional hiring dependant on sales.

“Obviously, P.J. is making a pretty big investment in a relatively small community,” he said. “We’re hoping the community responds in kind and supports the business, that will allow us to hire more people.”

Ford, meanwhile, credited Hancock County commissioners for their interest in promoting economic development. The county had acquired the two stadiums from the Board of Education for $400,000, then sold all three properties to the BDC for $500,000 with the understanding that they’d be paid once buyers were found.

The county, meanwhile, found a buyer for some of the bleachers, and sold the rest of the scrap metal to a dealer.

“We’re excited about it,” Ford said. “It’s a unique relationship that we’ve been able to establish over time. They made economic development a priority about three years ago when they invested in the Taylor, Smith & Taylor site (in Chester), then they moved on to acquire the other three properties, all for the purpose of economic development.

“What we’re excited about, particularly as it relates to the Newell site, is we always believed we needed a catalytic project in Newell that would instill confidence in other people to invest in the central part of Hancock County,” he said. “What’s exciting about this announcement is that we’ve been showing other properties in Newell to people in steel-related industries and the oil and gas industry. Those properties aren’t owned by the BDC.”

While Latsko is still calculating the bottom line in terms of his investment, Ford figures it will be in the $1.5 million range when all is said and done. “It will help us draw additional investment and additional employers to the Newell area,” he said. “It’s really going to have a catalytic effect in Hancock County.”

Ford said they have also had discussions with an unidentified group interested in acquiring the old Weir High stadium, as well as a potential buyer for the old firehouse.

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