Coppermine Fieldhouse, a Baltimore-based private operator of facilities for indoor and outdoor, adult and youth sports and activities, has expressed interest in expanding its operations into Harford County, and is focused on the Aberdeen Family Swim Center.
"You have a lot of folks that are leaving this area that are coming down to Baltimore County to play in club soccer, club lacrosse programs," Alex Jacobs, Coppermine's founder and owner, said during a work session with Aberdeen leaders Monday evening.
Coppermine operates seven facilities, including some with swimming pools, in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, according to its website. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford & Cecil Counties currently manages the city-owned Aberdeen swim club.
"The goal of Coppermine is to house enough social, athletic, and creative activities for the entire family to enjoy and to offer the best programs for the infant child to the active senior that will allow each individual achieve excellence!" according to a statement posted on the organization's site.
Jacobs and Keith Kormanik, a director with Coppermine, made their presentation to the Aberdeen mayor and City Council Monday.
The organization made a prior presentation to the city in February about bringing their services to Ripken Stadium, but Mayor Patrick McGrady said later that that option "was not on the table." City leaders did inform them about the needs of the swim center, though, according to McGrady.
Coppermine representatives gave each person at Monday's work session a copy of an aerial shot of the current Aberdeen swim center at 615 Old Robinhood Road with a multi-use athletic field laid over an existing grass field.
Developing an athletic field adjacent to the pool, which could be used for soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football, "would bring some pretty good activity to this location," Jacobs said.
He said the facility, with the athletic field and pool, could be active for at least 10 months of the year.
Jacobs estimated Coppermine would invest $1.3 million or $1.4 million into facility upgrades, including the athletic field, lighting and improvements to the pool such as building up the concrete gutters and having a steel or inflated enclosure that would be placed over the pool after the summer.
Jacobs also estimated 100 to 150 parking spots could be built on site.
"We have to build up the pool if we want it to be a real competitive swim center," he said.
Coppermine representatives and city leaders discussed having Coppermine lease the swim center for 25 years — Coppermine would be responsible for facility maintenance and liability as lessees — leasing it with an option to buy or purchasing it from the city.
McGrady asked about the business management aspect.
"Having one field at a solitary location away from everything else you've got seems to be a challenge," he told Jacobs.
Councilman Tim Lindecamp, also the athletic director at Aberdeen High School, noted club teams, county parks and recreation teams and Harford County Public Schools interscholastic teams are currently competing for space, and that space is controlled by Parks and Recreation.
Lindecamp said that, if he creates a club lacrosse team, "to get a field in Harford County, unless I have my own field somewhere, I have to go through parks and rec."
"If I was a club team, I could come to [Coppermine] and say, 'I want your field on Monday, Wednesday and Friday," he said.
Jacobs said the Aberdeen field could be in use through 10 or 11 p.m., and it would be available during the week and on weekends.
McGrady asked if the city would have any issues with the state, if a private entity operates the swim center, as Aberdeen has obtained Program Open Space money for the facility.
Phyllis Grover, director of planning and community development, said it does not appear that, "at first blush," the city would be in violation of Program Open Space regulations if the city does not change ownership. She said she would be happy to check into the matter further, though.
City leaders did not make any commitments Monday, but McGrady did ask Coppermine representatives to come back with a detailed proposal, expanding upon the concept they presented.
"I'd like to see the nuts and bolts of how that might work," he said after the work session.
The mayor also expressed concern about Boys & Girls Clubs participants, who take a shuttle from the club on East Bel Air Avenue to the swim center during the summer.
"We would completely work with them," Kormanik replied.
Jacobs stressed that "we can't alienate any of the customers here."
"We don't want to displace anybody," he said.
Derek DeWitt, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford & Cecil Counties, was in the audience during the work session.
"We're interested to see how this progresses," DeWitt said after the session. "The city has been incredibly supportive of our clubs, and we know that they have our best interests in mind."
He said Boys & Girls Clubs members can use the Aberdeen Swim Center at no additional cost, and he wants to ensure any agreement with a new operator includes the same opportunity for those children.
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"We look forward to working with the city and whatever partner they choose, if they so choose a partner," DeWitt said.