Sportsman's Hall rink may rise from the ashes Owner responds to demand, hopes to rebuild longtime gathering place

May 27, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Responding to pleas from his old customers, Harry Morfoot has completed plans for rebuilding Sportsman's Hall in Upperco.

The roller skating rink, a gathering place for Carroll and Baltimore county youths for 33 years, burned to the ground in June 1992.

Since then, generations of people who hung out and learned to skate at the rink have called Mr. Morfoot with offers of emotional and financial support.

"So many people want it, that I want to try and get it there if I can," said Mr. Morfoot this week.

Nineteen-year-old John Paul Zomack of Essex, who had walked away from the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, was found guilty but not criminally responsible in January for burning down the rink.

Mr. Morfoot would like the new building to be about 30,000 square feet, larger than the original structure. The additional space, replacing an apartment in the back, would be used for a video-game room.

Art Menkle, who rebuilt the Four Seasons sports complex after it burned down in July 1989, is the contractor for the project, which could cost $800,000 to $1 million, Mr. Morfoot said.

"It would be one of the largest rinks in the country," he said. "Most rinks are between 16,000 and 18,000 square feet, and this would be almost double that."

The rink, built in 1958 and opened the following May, has been a major part of Mr. Morfoot's life since he was 39 years old.

The former land surveyor and egg and poultry farmer said the destruction of the rink he designed and built was devastating.

"I lost everything, all my personal belongings," Mr. Morfoot said. "It was a bad experience."

Mr. Morfoot said the 6.85-acre piece of property, zoned business major, is very valuable.

"In the upper end of Baltimore County, it's almost impossible to get that type of zoning," he said.

However, personal and financial problems have delayed the 64-year-old man's plans. Not only did Mr. Morfoot have to reconstruct all his inventory records, which were destroyed in the fire, from memory, but he was ill this winter.

"The problems have been building," he said. "I've just had to put things on hold."

Also, a Baltimore County sprinkler ordinance and the soaring costs of lumber and steel may delay the project further.

The wooden floor alone, he said, has doubled in cost since he priced it last fall. Today, the wooden rink floor would cost eight to 10 times what it did when he first built Sportsman's Hall, he said.

Mr. Morfoot said he had hoped to begin building at the beginning of June, but is now shooting for late summer or early fall and is considering downsizing his dream.

"I may have to redesign it and go to a smaller size, or I may have to do things to the interior to bring the price down," he said.

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