Baltimore’s renovated Cahill Fitness and Wellness Center reopened with fanfare from city officials Friday, who marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting and tour.
Nestled along the edge of Leakin Park, the new Cahill Center bears little resemblance to a beleaguered 1970s-era recreation center that city officials targeted for renovation.
Today, the West Baltimore center’s floor-to-ceiling windows gleam, offering glimpses of a swimming pool and fitness center inside. A glass-walled gymnasium features panoramic views of the woods that surround much of the center.
Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott hailed the center’s $17.9 million renovation, which began before he took office in December, as an investment in the promise of the city’s youth.
“This is what we deserve throughout the city of Baltimore and what we will have as long as I am in this seat,” Scott said told a small, socially distanced crowd gathered in the gym. “We will invest in recreation and parks in ways we have never before.”
Scott, 37, and City Council President Nick Mosby, 42, spoke of growing up in the city’s recreation centers. Both praised the spaces as havens for youth who may not have stable homes to retreat to.
“It’s actually buildings like this, like the mayor said, that literally saved their lives,” Mosby said.
Mosby called the Cahill Center renovation a good investment at a pivotal time for the city.
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“For us to continue to grow our city, in order for us to see a city that we all deserve and desire, these are the types of buildings, this is the type of activity, this is the investment we need to continue to do,” Mosby said.
Centers across the city reopened last week after a closure for the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cahill Center, situated on the eastern edge of Leakin Park, near the Windsor Hills neighborhood, was built in 1972 on land donated to the city by Winfield S. and Florence E. Cahill. It was targeted for renovation in 2015 as one of eight centers the city hoped to substantially upgrade through a $185 million Recreation and Aquatics Facilities Analysis and Plan.
The Cahill Center now includes the gym, a fitness center, dance studio, classrooms and locker rooms. Outside, residents will find a splash area, basketball courts and picnic grove.
The center was best known for its theater program, which previously was constrained by limited space. The renovation includes an upgraded theater with more performance space and dressing rooms.
A modern exterior reflects the heavily wooded park behind the building. Inside, sections of poplar, walnut and ash line many walls, all harvested from fallen city trees collected through a city sustainability initiative.
“Conservation — you’ve got it all around this building,” said Reginald Moore, Baltimore’s director of recreation and parks. “When you talk about health and wellness, it’s throughout this facility. But then the last piece of this that’s near and dear is social equity. Those are the three guiding principles that we will continue to lead with as an agency.”