Phelps talks about purchasing pool

Rink near aquatic club rumored to be closing

August 19, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun Reporter

Olympic gold medal winner Michael Phelps said last night that he is starting a new endeavor involving a pool he and coach Bob Bowman are purchasing in Baltimore.

"My goal is to change the sport of swimming," Phelps told NBC's Nightly News anchor Brian Williams in an interview broadcast last night. "Bob and I are starting up a new business back in Baltimore with the pool that we just bought, so we're going to make some adjustments and see what we can do to take that sport to the next level."

The 23-year-old swimmer's declaration comes amid rumors that he and his representatives are in negotiations to buy North Baltimore Aquatic Club's Meadowbrook facility along with a neighboring ice skating rink and post office in the Mount Washington community.

One rumored proposal has Phelps and his management group turning the area into an Olympic training center. In April, it was announced that Bowman would be NBAC's chief executive officer.

Several skating instructors were informed Wednesday night that the Northwest Skating Rink would be closed at the end of the month, according to one coach who did not want to be identified out of deference to the business' management. The coach said that the chairwoman of the nonprofit organization that runs the rink told the instructors at the meeting that she has agreed to sell the property to the NBAC, the swimming club that developed Phelps.

The coach said that Jackie Eliasberg, the chairwoman, swore all the instructors to secrecy but that word leaked out anyway. Eliasberg did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Murray Stephens, CEO and founder of the NBAC, denied a deal was finalized with the skating rink or Phelps. Stephens, speaking by phone, said he had not heard Phelps' television comments and "can't comment on what Michael Phelps said. I'm not in a position to talk about anything that I don't know is happening."

Stephens declined to comment further.

In late April, NBAC announced that Bowman, 43, would become its CEO after the Olympics, and Phelps said he would follow his coach back to Baltimore. For the past four years, Bowman has coached at the University of Michigan, and Phelps has trained with him in Ann Arbor.

Bowman will take over from Stephens, 62, who founded the club in 1968.

The modest facility is known for producing elite swimmers, including Phelps' fellow Olympian Katie Hoff. Phelps' older sisters, Hilary and Whitney, also trained there. Bowman began coaching Phelps at NBAC when the Olympian was 11.

Phelps won gold medals in all eight races he participated in during this year's Olympics - breaking a 36-year-old record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics, held by swimmer Mark Spitz.

It is unclear how far along any business negotiations are.

A manager at Northwest Skating Rink deferred all questions to Eliasberg.

The rink has been in business for 37 years and has seen several Olympic athletes take to its ice, including Bel Air's Kimmie Meissner. Most of the people who attended yesterday's public skating session were aware that the rink is rumored to be closing by the end of the month.

Frances Culotta brought her 11-year-old daughter for what she says will be one of the final times.

She has already begun speaking of the place in the past tense.

"My middle daughter has been taking lessons here for a couple of years," Culotta said. "We live near Hunt Valley, so this was a good location for us. I don't know where we're going to go now."

The rink's management as of yesterday had not put out official word of the facility's future.

Donna Brust, who helps run the Baltimore Youth Hockey League, said that she has heard from several sources about Northwest shutting down and that she has no reason to doubt that.

Brust said that about 75 kids use the rink during the fall to play hockey and that she is in the process of looking at alternative sites in the Mount Pleasant Ice Arena, Patterson Park in the city or a new rink in Reisterstown.

"We're quite disappointed and surprised," Brust said.

Mallory Richards said she is a fall skating instructor at Northwest and has been using the facility for 33 years. Richards, who was not officially informed about the possible closing, said she has not received schedules for coming classes, something she usually has by now.

Richards said she cried when she heard talk late last week that the rink might close.

"I grew up in that area," Richards said. "It's a community draw for a lot of kids, especially for tween years when they have nowhere else to go. They can learn a skill, have fun and meet new friends. Those kids are going to be lost now."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.