Nearly three years after his dream burned to the ground, Harry W. Morfoot is ready to fulfill the promise he made to patrons of the Sportsman's Hall roller rink on June 21, 1992.
After several false starts, Mr. Morfoot finally poured new footers for a rebuilt rink in Arcadia last week, signaling the return of the roller skating mecca that had been a gathering place for generations.
"There were big, 250 to 300-pound men with beards and mustaches standing around crying," Mr. Morfoot said, recalling that June 1992 evening when arson destroyed the rink. "I thought, 'If it means that much to them, I've got to put it back.' "
In January, John Paul Zomack of Essex, who had walked away from the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, was found guilty but not criminally responsible for burning down the rink.
For a time, it appeared that Mr. Morfoot would not be able to resurrect the 33-year-old business. Health problems, a divorce and the long process of obtaining a building permit in Baltimore County all threatened to block him from rebuilding his dream.
Mr. Morfoot, now 75, had been a land surveyor and a poultry and egg farmer before building the rink on Route 30 in 1958.
"People thought I was crazy when I did it the first time," Mr. Morfoot said, adding that he has been skating since he was eight years old. "I don't know what they're going to think now."
Area residents and leaders of local youth groups said they think its wonderful.
"It's kind of exciting that he's going to rebuild the building and bring that activity back to the community," said Larry Bair, principal of Spring Garden Elementary in Hampstead.
You need to realize that the skating rink has been one of the focal points of the community," he said. "That's something special and unique about Hampstead. It was always a meeting place for many of the children."
Since the rink burned in 1992, he and other area principals have had to turn to the Magic Elm rink in Hanover, Pa., to provide school-sponsored skating parties for their students, Mr. Bair said.
"It's a highlight every year," he said. "Now, we'll be very happy to have the rink in our neighborhood."
The rink should also provide entertainment for teen-agers and other adults who have waited patiently for its return, said Terry Glendenning of Glyndon. He and his wife, Mary, had skated at the rink frequently since it opened and came to the site the day it burned down.
"Now, we're in a position to take our grandchildren up there," he said, noting that they have not skated since Sportsman's Hall was destroyed. "It's good exercise for you as you get older. We really miss it."
Mr. Morfoot, who had friends in six states that frequented the rink, said he misses it and the many children who skated there as well.
"It gets into your blood," he said. "I do know the rink business. It's an asset to the community and something the community needs."
Tentative plans for the new facility include a 30,000-square-foot building with a beginner's rink and a birthday party room built on the wooden floor that Mr. Morfoot has demanded from the beginning.
The building, ordered from Vasco-Pruden buildings in Pennsylvania, is expected to arrive in May, Mr. Morfoot said, adding that the entire project is estimated to cost just over $1 million.
"I'm getting too old to be doing this," he said with a laugh. "But, if I kick the bucket, at least I'll go doing something I want to do. It'll be my big tombstone when I'm gone."