Recreation program saving money for more facilities


Howard At Play

March 31, 2002|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

BUILD IT, or at least start saving for it now, because they're coming. While that may be lacking as a catchy slogan, it's become a guideline for the Howard County Youth Program.

The Ellicott City youth-sports organization, the county's second-largest such group, quietly began about three years ago setting aside money to buy additional facilities, its president said in an interview last week.

In fact, said Howard Carolan, who has led the four-sport group for four years, the club is earmarking $10 from each registration in each of its sports for new facilities.

The club , he said, envisions a need for as many as three or four softball fields and six baseball fields, as well as a gymnasium for basketball and youth volleyball.

But, said Carolan, the timeline is indefinite mainly because the club needs money first.

"We're past it being a dream, but a long way from reality," he said, explaining that the club figures it will need at least several million dollars to start. Some preliminary engineering and architectural work has been commissioned, and the club foresees the need for a professional fund-raiser, he said.

The club, he said, has an eye on acreage owned by the county Department of Recreation and Parks in the Manor Woods area, off Route 144, but is open to other sites, as well as partnering arrangements.

Carolan said HCYP has explored with rec officials the possibility of entering an arrangement similar to what it has at Kiwanis-Wallas Park, its baseball/softball complex at U.S. 40 and Route 144 in Ellicott City - meaning a long-term lease.

Meanwhile, the club also is mulling ramifications of sagging interest in older age groups for baseball and softball - a phenomenon other county groups are experiencing, too. Many, including Carolan, attribute that to spring soccer and lacrosse, which have had considerable recent growth.

Yet, he said, at the 6-, 7- and 8-year-old levels, "we're packed - in fact, we have waiting lists for baseball." And with about 2,500 players, the club's basketball program has become the once-baseball-dominated HCYP's largest.

HCYP officials foresee a need for additional facilities, he said, because of continuing development in, especially, western and northern parts of greater Ellicott City.

Also, Carolan said, the club has reduced its reliance on county school ball fields, using them mainly for practices because of unsatisfactory maintenance, particularly after schools close for the summer. Games, except for travel teams requiring adult-size, 90-foot baselines at high schools, are played at Kiwanis-Wallas.

"We don't see the school situation changing," he said, "and that's not to criticize politicians or public agencies, because ... there are so many groups and interests competing for tax dollars."

HCYP is the second county youth sports group to pursue alternatives to publicly owned fields. The Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County is awaiting approvals to begin construction on its 10-field Covenant Park within a few months.

Carolan said he admires the vision that SAC/HC had a decade ago, when it began saving for its complex. "You can't go into this with the attitude that `My kids are going to play on these fields,' " he said. "You have do it with an approach that the club will continue after your own children have finished but that it's in the long-term interest of the community."

Along the sidelines

Curling: Howard County has a world curling champion. He's Bob Pelletier, a Glenmont subdivision resident in Columbia and one of four members of a U.S. team that on March 23 won the 16th biennial Rotary World Curling Championship in Scotland.

Pelletier, a state veterans affairs employee who says he is "over 39 now," and teammates beat competitors from Scotland, England and Canada in the club's competition in Edinburgh.

The squad practices in Montgomery County. Pelletier's teammates are a retired Scottish banker, a Bethesda architect and a financial planner who is often in the United States but calls home what can only be described as one of the world's lesser-known curling hotbeds, Guam.

Baseball: The Baseball Factory Inc., a talent-development agency based in Columbia founded by Atholton High alumnus Steve Sclafani, is launching a college-level summer team called the Baltimore Pride. The team will compete in the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League and play home games at UMBC's Alumni Field. Needed: families to house players through July. Call Dana Burton, 410-715-5080.

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