What began as a dream in 1977 is about to become a reality for the gymnastics program of the Aberdeen-Churchville recreation council.
After years of running its program at Churchville Elementary School, the organization is preparing to move into a new, permanent home on the grounds of the Churchville Recreation Complex, just north of Glenville Road.
The 26,000-square-foot facility, which cost $1.3 million, includes two basketball courts, a main gymnastic room, a preschool gymnastics area, two locker rooms, a meeting room, an office and two storage areas.
According to Parks and Recreation director Stan Kozenewski, the gymnastics group began a building fund 15 years ago and through last year had raised about $105,000.
"Without their commitment, the area the building occupies would still be open space," he said. "Although the county received money for the building . . . from the state through project Open Space, the impetus was provided by the people in the gymnastic program.
While the gymnasts dreamt of a home of their own, the county visualized a multipurpose building.
Both are pleased with the outcome, which Mr. Kozenewski said is one of the most ambitious recreation projects undertaken by the county.
"This is our first attempt at a project of this magnitude," he said.
Colleen Denny and Steve Cornelison coordinate the gymnastics program, which last year enrolled 650 youngsters ranging in age from 2 1/2 to 18 years. This year, because of the new facility and the just-concluded Olympic Games, the coordinators anticipate an increase in enrollment.
"I'd really like to see our count double, but that may be too ambitious," Mrs. Denny said. "We are capable of handling a substantial increase."
Including the two coordinators, ACPR boasts 13 full-time paid staffers, all of whom are certified by the United States Gymnastics Federation, the national accrediting body for gymnastic instructors.
One area seen as needing improvement is the boys program, which will be headed by Jeff Harrison, a teacher at Aberdeen High School.
His job will be made easier because of the inclusion of apparatus geared to the boys program -- pommel horses, rings and high bar. "We were never able to retain the boys' interest," Mr. Cornelison said. "After a few years of tumbling and vaulting, they would lose interest and drop out because they weren't able to participate in boys activities."
Meanwhile, fund raising will continue. New equipment for the boys program and the purchasing of replacement mats is expected to cost about $10,000.
"We've always had fantastic cooperation from the parents" in fund raising, Mrs. Denny said. "Once they see this place and the potential it offers, we anticipate an enthusiastic response."
Basketball is also expected to receive a boost in enrollment. The program, under the auspices of Forest Hill, Hickory and Churchville recreational councils, has been using various gymnasiums in the area and last year attracted 300 participants.
"We haven't worked out the details of the schedule for the upcoming season because we haven't had registration yet," said program coordinator Robert Kress.
"Ideally, we'd like to house our 11-12 and 13-15 age groups [which have been using Harford VoTech and C. Milton Wright High School] at the new building. That way we can avoid using schools where we have to pay janitorial fees that put a tremendous drain on our costs," he said.
The program's clinic (ages 5 through 8) will continue at Forest Hill Elementary School, while the 9-10 age group will be housed at Hickory Elementary School.
Attempts will be made to start a girls basketball program that would be centered in the Churchville facility.
According to Mr. Kozenewski, the multipurpose building, which is open to all county residents, will also be used for indoor soccer, volleyball, shuffleboard, dances, craft shows and other events throughout the year.