Opening of arena muffles applause for 'Du' Burns

April 21, 1991|By Martin C. Evans

On the green carpet of the newly opened Clarence "Du Burns Arena yesterday, children in short pants raced up and down the indoor soccer field in a spirited scramble for the ball. Upstairs, on the glass-enclosed mezzanine, the man the building was named for was calling foul.

No, former Mayor Clarence H. "Du" Burns had not suddenly spotted an illegal tackle or a dangerous play. Mr. Burns, who is running to regain the mayoralty, was telling anyone who would listen that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was playing foul by opening the recreation center without fanfare, cheating him of a moment in the sun.

Mr. Burns said the Schmoke administration chose a quiet opening for the $6.7 million arena on Boston Street in Canton -- the only new recreation center scheduled to open in the city this year -- to avoid having to acknowledge Mr. Burns' role in getting the facility built. Mr. Burns approved money for construction when he was mayor in 1987.

"He can't say good things about me now that I'm his opponent," said Mr. Burns, who said he believes the administration will delay a dedication ceremony until after the mayoral primary in jTC September to avoid placing Mr. Burns in a flattering light.

"I've been told he won't have a grand opening until November," Mr. Burns said. "But that shows a lot of selfishness and maybe fear."

Not so, said Clinton R. Coleman Jr., the mayor's publicity director.

Mr. Coleman said Friday that politics had nothing to do with the timing of an opening ceremony.

He said parks officials are still checking out the building, which was completed April 4, and that Mr. Burns would be properly acknowledged after parks department officials are confident that any problems with the building are corrected.

"They have to work the bugs out, make sure the bleachers don't fall on the children," said Mr. Coleman.

"I'm sure there will be an official opening with both the mayor and Du Burns on a scale that it deserves. This mayor doesn't play those kinds of games."

Mr. Coleman said he did not know when the opening would be but that he thought it was at least a month away, perhaps longer.

Mr. Burns, who shook hands, posed for pictures with parents and children and distributed campaign literature at the arena, scoffed at the notion that the mayor would schedule a ceremony in praise of him during the summer, when the political campaign promises to be hottest.

The soccer arena is a bright, tiled building with a playing field 182 feet long and 85 wide, shower facilities, an aerobics area and a conference room.

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