Arbutus Recreation Center not just for sports

The Arbutus Recreation Center participated in last August's grand opening celebration of a complex that also features a library and senior center, though it didn't officially open until mid-September.

Despite the delay, use of the long-awaited community facility has surged thanks to the variety of programs it offers.

Stephanie Murphy, regional coordinator for Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, oversees the center and said it has drawn more than 10,000 participants of all ages.

Murphy noted that the center's indoor soccer program brought 1,000 children and its youth softball and baseball combined to attract 3,000 more.

About 1,500 adults have taken advantage of the facility to play basketball and volleyball, Murphy said.

"Our fitness programs are really taking off," Murphy said. "We're hoping we can cultivate those types of activities."

The reason so many people are taking fitness classes is simple, Murphy responded.

"(They've) never been offered in the community before," she said.

One of the more popular offerings at the recreation center is Zumba, a fitness program based on Latin dance. More than 3,000 people have come to Zumba classes this year.

"Who would've thought that there would be 66 women doing Zumba in the gym at one time?" Murphy asked increduously.

Chris Warfield, the third-year president of the Arbutus Recreation and Parks Council, said demand for Zumba has proved so great that the center has increased the number of classes offered each week from one to three.

Led by instructor Kearsha Saxon, Zumba classes are held 7:30-8:30 p.m. Mondays, 8-9 p.m.Wednesdays and 8-9 a.m. Saturdays.

A Zumba disciple, Warfield lauded Saxon's teaching abilities and noted people come from as far away as Columbia to take the classes.

"It's been great for me," said Warfield, who noted participants leave sopped with sweat but also with a smile. "It's high-energy fun but great exercise.

"(Saxon) works you, but you have so much fun."

Success of programs like the Zumba class mean the center stays filled.

"Our time slots are so full, I wish we had a double gym," the Arbutus resident said. "(But) we're still looking for new programs."

This fall, Murphy said, will also feature the start of the recreation center's Mommy and Me program, where parents and care providers can take their toddlers for more than just exercise.

"It's a socialization program, not just for the toddlers, but also for the parents or care provider," said Murphy, who noted it is important for those caring for toddlers to have adult interaction.

"I'm pleasantly surprised with their success," said Murphy, speaking about the fitness programs. "It's been a great year and we're hoping to build more and more and more."

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