The Carroll Gymnastics Center will have a new home when its classes begin next week.

It has moved from the Multi-Purpose Center in Westminster to the old -- and mostly vacant -- Hampstead Elementary.

It will hold classes and traveling team practices in the cafeteria portion of the building on Main Street. The school remains otherwise empty except for a few county Board of Education offices and storage.

The gymnastics group had to move because the Board of Educationis using the Multi-Purpose Center to house Sandymount Elementary pupils while the Finksburg school is being renovated.

Ed Calwell, a Carroll Gymnastics Center executive board member, said he was concerned last fall when he first heard of the impending move. But the countyhelped by supplying both the manpower and the transportation for therelocation.

Calwell said he appreciated the help, especially the assistance of Jeff Degitz of the Recreation and Parks Department, whocoordinated the July relocation to Hampstead despite "having to put up with (Carroll gymnastics president) Jerry (Patterson) and me."

Despite his original concerns about the move, Calwell said he has come to like the new quarters.

Parking is better, he said, and there is a playground where younger children can play while their siblings attend gymnastics classes or practices. The school's cafeteria has been converted into a gymnasium.

Portions of the drop ceiling have been removed, yielding enough vertical space to hang the rings and other apparatus.

"We feel a little better about the move now," he said.

Now settled at their new location, CGC officials are looking ahead to the season and they remain concerned about how the move will affect their program's membership.

Last year the center registered about 220 youngsters age 3 to 15 in its gymnastics classes.

Forty belonged on the boys' and girls' traveling teams, which competed in meets at various places in Maryland and nearby states.

But the movefrom Westminster to the northeastern corner of the county may cost the group some of its base of support in the South Carroll area, Calwell said.

On the other hand, its new location may make the center more accessible to others.

"We will look to Hanover and Reisterstown," Calwell said, noting that he plans to contact schools in those areas. "We could pick up some children from Pennsylvania and western Baltimore County. We'll try to market to those people.

"We hope we can maintain the same numbers," he said.

He added that his group would ultimately like to return to the Multi-Purpose Center, particularly because the Board of Education has improved the center's gymnasiumwith a new ceiling, lighting and other amenities.

But he thinks county plans will scotch any early return.

His view seemingly coincides with that of Vernon Smith, the school board's director of schoolsupport services.

Smith said the county plans soon to renovate Mechanicsville Elementary in Gamber, and the the Westminster facility may be needed again to house some of that school's operation after Sandymount is finished.

Such a move, he said, could tie up the Multi-Purpose Center until as late as 1995.

But Calwell is confident of the future.

"We're over the tough times," he said. "It should be smooth sailing from here."

Owners of Perna, one of two other youth gymnastics club in the county, also look forward to the season despite uncertain economic times.

Liz Perna, who with her husband, John,owns the Perna gymnastics facility near Union Mills, says registration remained static last year after rising each previous year in the club's 11-year history.

But she said interest has perked up recently, and she hopes registration for classes exceeds last year's 250.

"We will probably pick up some people from Westminster," she said, in the wake of the move of the Carroll Gymnastics Center.

Perna will not play host to any state championship tournaments, as it has in the past, but will hold its third annual Winter Wonderland Meet the first weekend in March.

The meet attracted roughly 200 young gymnasts last year from throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

At the three-day weekend affair, competitors will attempt to qualify in various events for upcoming state meets.

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