Arson was blamed for a three-alarm blaze that leveled the Sportsman's Hall roller skating rink in northwestern Baltimore County early yesterday, destroying a landmark and shocking longtime patrons.
Between 150 and 200 firefighters from Baltimore and Carroll counties battled the blaze, which was reported at 4:54 a.m. and not declared under control until 7:03 a.m., fire officials said.
Three cinder-block walls and heaps of rubble are all that remain of the 33-year-old building at 15500 Hanover Pike in Arcadia, near the Carroll County line. The rink was closed for the summer.
John Paul Zomack, 19, of the 1400 block of Hadwick Drive, Essex, was arrested at noon yesterday and charged with arson and breaking and entering, Baltimore County police said. He was being held at the Garrison precinct on $500,000 bond.
A passer-by who saw flames coming from the skating rink used a pay telephone outside a nearby convenience store to report the fire, said Skip Hayes, a Baltimore County fire dispatch supervisor.
Shortly after the fire broke out, witnesses saw a man running from the building, said police spokesman E. Jay Miller.
Mr. Zomack, who was walking along Mount Carmel Road, was picked up around 9 a.m. by a state trooper who was patrolling the area outside of Hampstead in Carroll County, Mr. Miller said.
The trooper stopped Mr. Zomack because he was acting "suspiciously," The trooper brought Mr. Zomack to the fire scene, where detectives questioned him and obtained evidence prompting the arrest, Mr. Miller said.
The owners of the rink, Harry W. and Agnes Morfoot, have an apartment at the rear of the building but were staying at a farm in Potter County, Pa., for the summer.
Dozens of customers and friends of the Morfoots gathered in the parking lot yesterday afternoon, consoling the owners' family, taking pictures of the burned-out building and reminiscing over the good times shared at the rink.
"We have a lot of memories here," said Terry Glendenning of Reisterstown. "We met a lot of people here. I feel like I lost one of my family members. This is really kind of sad."
Mr. Glendenning and his wife, Mary, started frequenting the Sportsman's Hall skating rink shortly after it opened in 1959, when they were teen-agers living in Baltimore.
The Glendennings have regularly patronized the rink since, meeting old friends, getting some exercise and enjoying the old-style organ music played on tapes.
The couple was planning to teach their 2-year-old grandson how to skate when the rink reopened this fall.
"I just can't believe it's gone," Mrs. Glendenning said as she fought back tears.