Sports complex gains momentum

$2.2 million raised toward linchpin of Park Heights renewal

November 09, 2001|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

There's a bar, a smattering of graffiti and a layer of broken glass at Reisterstown Road and Woodland Avenue in Northwest Baltimore.

None of which suggest sports, much less golf. But community leaders hope to build a 250-yard driving range, a miniature golf course, a restaurant, and basketball and tennis courts at the intersection in the belief that a sports complex will lead to the revitalization of the neighborhood.

The group, a mix of politicians, residents and developers, has collected about $2.2 million from various sources, including almost $1.8 million from the city of Baltimore, and estimates that it will need to raise several hundred thousand more dollars to complete the Park Heights Family Sports Complex by 2003.

"Ain't much to look at right now, that's for sure," said Henri Thompson, executive director of the Park Reist Corridor Coalition Inc., a neighborhood group involved in the sports complex, as he toured the site recently. "But it will be something else by the time it's done."

It is a long way from the greens of Augusta to the streets of Park Heights, community leaders acknowledge. Teen-age pregnancy and drug use is rampant; dealers frequently sell their wares at the corner. The area is a designated HotSpot, one of several high-risk areas in the city that have been targeted by police for cleanup.

"It's a community where young people are standing on corners in droves," said Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh, who represents the area and has been involved in planning the project.

Even so, interest in golf is high. An annual clinic held every May in the neighborhood draws a couple hundred participants who are taught the basics of the game by professional golfers.

Many of the pros who have taught at the clinic have said they will volunteer their time at the golf course and have donated clubs and balls.

For some, the clinic is bittersweet. Though participants invariably improve during the afternoon session, many don't have the opportunity to play golf until the next clinic because courses are far away and equipment is expensive.

"The chances of them doing anything with a golf club until the next year is pretty much nil," Pugh said.

Children face difficulties playing sports of any kind in the neighborhood. Pugh, who occasionally jogs through the area, said, "It's scary, the amount of people who stand on corners and harass you."

In addition to keeping children off the street, Thompson and others hope the complex will attract young golfers' parents.

"There aren't any places around here for a family to spend time together," Thompson said.

Pugh and others say the sports complex will give residents not just a chance to swing a club, but also an opportunity to move up in the world. Youths will have the chance to learn business basics at the complex's restaurant and pro shop. And golf will help them in their future business dealings, Pugh said.

"When you look at how business is done these days, so much of it is done on the golf course," she said.

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