Shortly after the Dundalk Center closed its doors yesterday evening to local recreation programs, workers moved in and drained the center's Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, ending more than 17 years of county-sponsored recreation service.
"It's a sad day for Dundalk," said Bruce Mills, president of the recreation program.
A two-month effort by the Dundalk-Eastfield Recreation Council, Baltimore County officials and the local business community failed to find a solution to keep the center open. The council needed about $180,000 to cover expenses, plus $300,000 for repairs.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden eliminated funds for the center from this year's fiscal budget. The center was originally scheduled to close June 30, but Mr. Hayden agreed to keep it open to see if a plan could be found to save it.
Mr. Mills said most of the recreation programs that used the center have found other locations, mainly in local public schools.
But the largest program, indoor soccer in which more than 400 youngsters participate, has yet to find a permanent home.
"Four hundred kids means a lot of parents who pay taxes and vote, and a lot of heat is going to be put on someone if we don't have an indoor soccer program this winter," said Joe Falbo, chairman of the soccer program for children ages 4 through 17.
Mr. Falbo said the program used the center and Logan Elementary School. The school is still available, but another facility is needed for the older youngsters.
The aquatic programs, including the Dundalk-Eastfield Swim Club, has moved to the Dundalk Community College pool.
"We've gotten time on four days at the college and that will be enough to keep us in the community," said Stephanie Weisenborn, the swim club's volunteer coach. If the team hadn't been able to get time at the community college, it would either have disbanded or moved to Baltimore City, Ms. Weisenborn said.
Last month, the recreation council decided it could not afford to operate the center and lease it from the county, Mr. Mills said.
"In terms of money and volunteer time, we just couldn't afford to act as a landlord for the center," he said.
Mr. Mills criticized the county for its lack of effort to find other locations for the recreation programs.
"When the county in effect tells the indoor soccer program, the largest program we have, to find its own facilities, that's not much help," he said.
Wayne R. Harman, county recreation and parks director, said the county did the best it could. He noted that the weight room, home to a local weightlifting club, will remain open at the Dundalk Center as long as a community crisis center on the third floor remains.
Mr. Hayden has said the crisis center will remain in the building until a new location can be found.
"No private vendor has stepped forward and offered to take the building and keep it open," Mr. Harman said. Several private companies inspected the center and determined it would cost too much to repair and renovate, he said.
The county will now formally advertise for proposals from private vendors to operate the Dundalk Center, Mr. Harman said.
"We're not giving up on the center, but frankly I'm not very optimistic we will find a private vendor to take over the place," he said.