Mayor Unveils Rec Center Plan | WYPR

Mayor Unveils Rec Center Plan

Jul 16, 2015
Originally published on July 14, 2015 5:12 pm

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake introduced a plan to upgrade the city’s aging recreation centers and pools Tuesday, funded in part by the sale of some city-owned parking garages.

She unveiled the plan, which calls for more than $136 million for fitness centers, athletic fields, swimming pools and splash pads, at a news conference at the Rita Church Community Center in Northeast Baltimore.

Rawlings-Blake said no centers would close under the plan.

Nearly half of the funding would come from the sale of four downtown parking garages.  Financial analysts said the city could get from $40 million to $60 million, save money on operating expenses and generate tax revenue from the private owners

The mayor sent a bill authorizing the sale to the city council last August. But the council has done nothing with it. Tuesday she renewed her call for a hearing on the bill.

It is unlikely, however, that will happen in the immediate future.

City Council President Jack Young has been leery of the mayor’s plan and questions the wisdom of unloading what he calls a “cash cow” for the city.

Young tweeted Tuesday a proposal to use revenue from the garages to fund the mayor’s rec center upgrades as an alternative to selling the garages. His spokesman, Lester Davis, said they were waiting for a response.

Young has said he won’t schedule a hearing for the mayor’s bill until she commits to funding two “super rec” centers, similar to the Boo Williams Sportsplex in Hampton, Va.

The mayor said Young did not mention the “super rec” idea during a recent conversation.

“We gave a complete and comprehensive presentation to the council president about our plans moving forward,” she said. “We made it clear that we wanted to work with him and the council to accelerate this plan; this plan could happen in six years or in 26 years.”

Rawlings-Blake added how quickly they can implement the plan depends on how quickly they can sell the garages and that selling the parking garages would “significantly help.”  The plan includes money from the capital budget over multiple years.

Baltimore City Recreation and Parks operate 40 recreation centers and has budgeted more than $46 million to build or renovate five recreation centers and one park pool.