Dundalk Center to reopen Swim America will take over

November 13, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

The aging Dundalk Center, closed and left for dead two months ago, has been brought back to life.

Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced yesterday that the county government has found a private operator for the recreation center who will reopen the indoor, Olympic-sized swimming pool and allow use of the gymnasium for indoor soccer.

Under an agreement yet to be signed, Swim America of Maryland Inc. will lease the building for $1 a year.

Swim America will pay for maintenance, security and operations and install a ventilation system in the pool. The lack of a ventilation system had allowed moisture to damage the ceiling over the pool. The county will pay for heat.

The lease will run for 18 months and then be renegotiated, said Mr. Hayden.

To satisfy legal requirements, the county must advertise for other potential operators for three weeks, but Mr. Hayden said Swim America was the only private firm to express real interest.

Swim America is a family owned pool management and swim lesson company run by Bill and Gail Walker and their five adult children. The Walkers manage several pools in the metropolitan area.

The county will pay to heat the building. In return, Swim America will let the Dundalk-Eastfield Recreation Council use the gym free of charge for its indoor soccer program.

The Dundalk Center, in the Dundalk historic town center, closed its doors Aug. 27 after Mr. Hayden cut out its budget, ending more than 17 years of county-sponsored recreation service.

"This is an excellent example of the private sector stepping forward to take over a service which the county can no longer afford," said Mr. Hayden.

Wayne R. Harman, county recreation and parks director, said at the time the center closed that he was not optimistic about finding a private operator to take over the center.

The county was able to move some recreational programs to other locations, including the Dundalk-Eastfield Swim Club. But the largest program, indoor soccer, with 400 participants, could not be relocated.

"I'm glad to see the center reopen but I don't know whether all of our recreation programs will move back or not. That's up to each program director," said Bruce Mills, president of the recreation council.

Gail Walker said yesterday that Swim America hopes to offer a full range of swimming programs for all age groups.

"Our fees will not be exorbitant because we want to become a community-based organization," said Mrs. Walker.

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