School gyms double as rec centers

January 11, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Elementary school gymnasiums might seem like an unlikely venue for Washington County's new adult pick-up sports programs, but don't be fooled -- these are no ordinary elementary school gyms.

The three new county elementary schools, Pangborn, Maugansville and Rockland Woods, were each constructed with high school-sized gymnasiums so they could be used after-hours for county recreation programs, said Jamie Dick, Director of the Washington County Recreation Department.

The gyms began their double lives as community recreation centers last week, when the county began renting the space to several area youth athletic leagues and hosting its own drop-in basketball, volleyball, badminton and open-gym programs.

This week, several registration-only classes will begin meeting in the school-based rec centers as well, including pilates, ballroom dance, youth soccer and adult fitness, Dick said. Many of those classes were previously offered in space the county rented at Hagerstown Community College, said Marsha Moats, the recreation department's program coordinator


"The three community centers are the first buildings we can call our own," Moats said. "We've rented everywhere we went."

The supersized gyms were built under a joint agreement by the Board of Education and the Board of County Commissioners, and were funded by a grant from Maryland's Program Open Space, Dick said. They were modeled after similar school-based community recreation centers that have been successful in Frederick County, Md., he said.

Under the joint-use agreement, the county can schedule recreation programs in the gyms from 5 to 9 p.m. on weeknights, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and from noon to 10 p.m. Sundays, Dick said. However, school functions such as fundraisers, graduations and festivals have priority over recreation department events, he said.

The county is charging $2 per person per day for use of the space during the drop-in programs. That fee offsets the cost of having a staff person available during the program, Dick said.

Between the three centers, the county has about 40 hours of programming scheduled each week, Dick said. About 20 hours of that is county recreation programming, whether classes or drop-in events, he said. The other 20 hours are offered for rentals to nonprofit organizations such as county youth basketball and volleyball leagues, he said. The county charges $15 per hour to rent to a full gym and $8 per hour to rent half a gym, he said.

Those rental rates are also available to individuals who would like to rent the space for parties, Dick said. The county doesn't provide anything other than basketballs or volleyballs, but some residents have booked the space for children's sports parties, he said.

The centers are booked for rentals through March, Dick said.

To rent the space, youth leagues have to provide certificates of insurance, Dick said. Drop-ins, birthday renters and class participants must sign waivers so the events are covered under the county's insurance, he said.

If additional Program Open Space funding is available, the county might be able to construct a community room in the new Eastern Elementary School, said James L. Sterling, director of the county's Buildings, Grounds and Parks Department. That room could be used for dance classes and rented for parties, he said.

County recreation programs at school-based community recreation centers


Pick-up basketball for ages 18 and older, 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at Pangborn and 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays at Rockland Woods

Pick-up volleyball for ages 18 and older, 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays at Maugansville

Pick-up badminton for ages 18 and older, 6 to 8 p.m. Fridays at Pangborn

Family open gym, 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays at Maugansville

Drop-in programs cost $2 per person per day, and participants must sign a waiver and code of conduct. Schedule is effective through March 29.

Registration only:

Pilates, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at Rockland Woods through March 5, $25

Ballroom dance, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays at Rockland Woods through March 5, $50 per couple

Youth soccer, 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. Tuesdays at Maugansville through Feb. 10, $30

Adult exercise and fitness, 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Maugansville through April 16, $45

All classes begin this week. Prices are higher for nonresidents.

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