Workers to begin rec center overhaul

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Work begins today on the first phase of a long-awaited project to transform the Community Center, a familiar one-story building in Severna Park, into a full-service recreational facility.

When completed, the expanded 25,000-square-foot facility at Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and Cypress Creek Road is expected to be a hub of activity for adults and children throughout Anne Arundel County.

Gardiner & Gardiner Inc. of Crofton is overseeing construction, which includes updating the center's swimming facilities and adding a full-size gymnasium. The first phase, which will cost an estimated $2 million, is to be finished Dec. 31.

The entire project is projected to cost $3.5 million, said Patt Haun, executive director of the Community Center.

Businesses and residents have contributed nearly $1 million to the project. The project also has received $200,000 from Anne Arundel County, which is expected to give another $10,000 this year, she said.

The state has committed $500,000 in matching funds once the center has spent $500,000, Haun said.

But the center needs another $1.5 million to complete the project, she said.

Andy Borland, chairman of the center's capital campaign committee, told the Severna Park Kiwanis recently, "The center has the $3.5 million, except $1.5 million is still in people's pockets."

The center originally was built as the parish house for St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. The church, the little brown chapel next door, serves as the center's Holy Grounds Youth Center.

When the parish built its church and school complex on Ritchie Highway in 1964, it sold the parish house to the YMCA. It was a YMCA recreational facility until financial difficulties forced it out of business about six years ago.

Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church rescued the facility, establishing the Community Center at Woods. Today, Woods' only connection to the center is that of landlord. The center is run by an independent board of directors.

The first phase of construction will involve engineering site work, expansion of the parking lot and a reconfiguration of the entrance road.

It also includes upgrading the indoor swimming pool with a new building, locker rooms and a water-filtration system, and construction of a separate therapy pool with dressing rooms. The pools will be connected by an interior passageway.

Managed by the SPY swim program, the swimming pool is the site of daily lessons and practice, as well as local and regional competition. To better compete with other facilities for swim meets, the center will replace the pool's starting blocks with state-of-the-art blocks, install a timing system and upgrade racing touch pads.

The second phase will include the demolition of the current front of the building and construction of a main lobby and offices, more meeting rooms and the gymnasium.

Plans call for naming the gym after Andy Borland, a popular former football coach and athletic director at Severna Park High School, where he taught for 30 years.

"Andy has been an excellent contributing member of the community," Haun said. "He touched so many lives as coach and teacher, and more kids through his work at Woods Church." In his retirement, Haun said, Borland coaches Green Hornets football.

Borland and his volunteer committee meet every Tuesday morning at the center to discuss fund-raising strategies and write thank-you notes to contributors.

Even though the gymnasium will have a 28-foot-high ceiling, backers say the new center won't be more imposing because of a design innovation by architect Steve Terhune. The first floor of the gym will be built one story below ground level, allowing its roof to be the same height as the rest of the one-story building.

The center is trying to find alumni who attended Severna Park High when Borland taught there. "We want to contact those who knew and loved Andy," Haun said, "and would support a project to name the gym in his honor."

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