Rec department planning new indoor sports facilities


Howard At Play

August 08, 2004|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

WHILE LIGHTING, traffic concerns and outdoor fields have dominated often-noisy debate over new county parks during the past four years, the Department of Recreation and Parks has been quietly firming up plans for its first new indoor sports facilities.

That's good news, especially for Howard County's youth and adult basketball programs in the western county and Ellicott City areas. Virtually all of those programs are experiencing a serious squeeze for court time in the county's public schools.

Some youth programs have had to limit or eliminate in-season practice time because there aren't enough courts available during the late afternoon and early evening. In some newer schools, cost-containment programs have narrowed gyms so severely that parents have trouble finding space to watch their children play.

So, while it is still a couple of years off, help seems to be on the way. The rec department's first two indoor basketball courts will open in Glenwood, in the western county, in 2006, said Gary J. Arthur, department director. There, the community youth program has become one of the two largest in basketball in a few years.

The courts will be part of a county government complex being built off Route 97 near Carrs Mill Road, best known to nonresidents of the area as the site of the new Western Regional Park. Money for construction is part of the county's construction budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The park is part of a complex that includes a library branch, with more construction in the next year or so that will add a Police Department substation, Health Department offices, a senior center -- and a gymnasium.

The gymnasium, Arthur said, is conceived as a place that seniors and others can use during the daytime, with youth and other adult teams getting access in the evenings.

Its facilities, said Kenneth Alban, who oversees the rec department's capital projects, will include two middle-school size basketball courts -- adaptable for volleyball -- and a three-lane walking-jogging track around the perimeter, an aerobics-dance studio, space for child care and a couple of other rooms for general use.

If that's news to you -- and it did surprise a number of sports group leaders at a recent rec-department dinner -- the department also showed off for the first time drawings of a building it wants to put up in Meadowbrook Park. That park is under development in the southeast quadrant of U.S. 29 and Route 100 in Ellicott City.

The proposed building would house an indoor roller-hockey rink that also could be adapted for use as two full-size basketball courts. And it also would include a synthetic turf field suitable for indoor soccer, lacrosse and football.

"The community said it was concerned about the noise that might be generated by in-line hockey, with houses so close to the park, and that led to us thinking about an enclosed structure," Arthur said.

Three communities bordering Meadowbrook initially objected to just about any work there, particularly lighted ball fields, but entered negotiations over what might be more acceptable facilities.

The Meadowbrook building, planned as a no-frills metal structure, is being designed now and carries an estimated $2.1 million price tag, Arthur said. It faces the series of hearings and community meetings that accompany the county's construction plans every fiscal year. If all goes well, it could open in 2007, Arthur said.

"Our architect showed us that just by adding about 20 feet to the length of the building, we could have the side-by-side fields inside," said Alban, agreeing with Arthur that doing so would mean serving more people than originally believed.

While other basketball groups, particularly, could benefit from courts at Meadowbrook, the Howard County Youth Program, based in Ellicott City, would seem a primary beneficiary. HCYP operates the largest youth basketball program in the county and has been talking in the past couple of years of possibly having its own gym, with some thought given to working through the rec department.

And, no doubt, the Howard County Lacrosse Program also will be interested in the indoor potential.


SWIMMING: Three Western Howard County Swim Club athletes won multiple events in the Central Maryland Swim League's Division III championship meet July 31 at the Lisbon club.

Amy Fisher took first place in two individual events and a relay; Cassie Jordan won two individual events; and Erica Enders won one event and a relay.

The meet drew more than 400 swimmers from six teams around the Baltimore Beltway. Other Howard County teams came from North St. John's and Atholton.

Triple first-place winners for North St. John's included Deanna Parsons, Kaitlyn Warner, Joe Kelly, and Blake Tagget. Alison Arnold and Charlotte Wells from Atholton each won two events.

North St. John's Kevin Schmidt, Elly Kokes and Zac Cooper each won one event, as did Rachel Quinn from Atholton.

Call the writer at 410-332- 6525 or send e-mail to lowell.

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