UPPERCO -- The owners of the Sportsman's Hall Roller Skating Center, a popular 33-year-old rink destroyed by fire on June 21, plan to rebuild the amusement mecca if insurance money comes through.
"We're collecting music, talking to contractors, having plans of roller rinks submitted and visiting other rinks to see what we can do," said Harry W. Morfoot, who operated the business with his wife, Agnes.
"We're working on it the same as if we were going into business for the first time, but we can't promise the public anything until we make a settlement with the insurance people."
Mr. Morfoot, 72, estimates it would cost about $1.25 million to rebuild the rink and equip it. He said the most he could expect to receive from insurance would be about $1.1 million.
The rink was a landmark at 15500 Hanover Pike, near the Carroll County border north of Reisterstown. It was a gathering spot for teen-agers from Carroll and Baltimore counties, and was enjoyed by two generations of families from the region.
John Paul Zomack, 19, who had escaped from the Rosewood Center, a state facility for the developmentally disabled, was arrested and charged with arson and breaking and entering several hours after the early morning fire was extinguished. He is awaiting a preliminary hearing in Baltimore County District Court.
Mr. Morfoot, who was at his Pennsylvania farm home at the time of the fire, said he and his wife had decided to retire from the business during their trip to the scene.
But they changed their minds after upset patrons greeted them warmly in the parking lot in front of the ruins.
"People came up to us, were hugging us, patting us on the back," Mr.Morfoot said. "My wife said she'd never seen so many people crying at a funeral as at the rink.
"When people come to a funeral, they say what they feel about a person when he's six feet under. By the building burning down, I found out what people felt toward me, and I'm still here. People in the community have been good to us. If I can, I want to put this back for them."
The fire also destroyed the Morfoots' apartment at the back of the rink as well as some property that can't be replaced, including a 38-year collection of custom-made organ music tapes.
A new rink would be constructed differently from the old, all-wood structure, said Mr. Morfoot. It would be a more modern, steel-and-metal structure to conform to building code standards, and probably about three-fourths the size of the old 31,000-square-foot building, he said. But he would still want a wood floor. He estimated that a rink would take five months to construct.
Friends, former patrons and schoolchildren have offered donations to set up bank accounts for fund-raising, but the Morfoots have sought to head off those efforts. Instead, they are considering selling subscriptions for skating if a rink is rebuilt to help finance the project.
"That way, people who want to help would donate in a sense, but would get their money back," Mr. Morfoot said.