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Brew Exclusive: the 18 rec centers the city wants to privatize

A snapshot of a fluid political process as the city’s privatization effort moves forward.

Above: The Lillian Jones Rec Center, in Upton, is slated to be turned over to private management by the city.

The names of the recreation centers the Rawlings-Blake administration hopes to turn over to private operators are a closely guarded secret, but The Brew has obtained the information.

A second RFP (Request for Proposals) on Friday and other information provides a road map of the rec centers pinpointed for private operation.

Consider the list below a snapshot of the administration’s current “wish list,” which is aimed at reducing about $400,000 in operating costs this fiscal year and redirecting city resources to improving and modernizing the remaining rec facilities.

Remember that this list is fluid, subject to the number and quality of proposals that come back on the second round of RFPs – and to future horsetrading among various groups with the mayor’s office and the Recreation and Parks Department.

Privatizing is Hard to Do

Back in August, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wanted to pare down the number of rec centers from the current 55 to about 28. That number is proving difficult to achieve from a practical and political standpoint.

The first round of RFPs in October attracted less than 15 proposals – some of which were immediately thrown out by the city.

Meanwhile, the mayor’s plan to transfer rec centers located in school buildings to the school system has not borne fruit. A spokesperson for schools chief Andres A. Alonso told a City Council hearing last month that the schools don’t have the budget or expertise to run rec centers.

Politically, the administration is facing opposition to the closing of any rec centers. A public meeting last Wednesday in which dozens of speakers skewered the city’s plan – and some demanded that it be halted – sent a chill through City Hall.

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young has said that rec centers closings “should not be an option” by the city. He has not taken a stand on private management of some facilities. The mayor retorted by saying that keeping all rec centers open is “not acceptable.”

Several City Council members – feeling the heat of constituents calling their offices – are trying to cut deals in which the rec centers in their districts are not put out to private bid.

Deputy Mayor Kaliope Parthemos is leading the administration’s efforts to work with Council members to keep them “on the reservation” and to point out the positive aspects of the plan, sources told The Brew.

Roosevelt Park and Coldstream Off the List

The Brew has learned, for example, that two facilities originally on the privatization list will be now kept under Rec and Parks management. They are Roosevelt Park in Hampden and Coldstream in Coldstream-Montebello. The Hampden center was the site of a demonstration against privatization two months ago.

Recreation Bureau Chief Bill Tyler said last week that the current way the city operates the rec centers must be changed. There are too many rec centers given current budget realities. What’s more, many centers are inadequately staffed and not providing quality programs to young people.

For example, he said that 15% of the centers have only one full-time staff member, which is not enough for insuring safety, even with adult volunteers running many programs.

Tyler said that plans to modernize more than a dozen rec centers into “model” centers would be a huge step forward for the city. The city has also broken ground for two new “state of the art” rec centers at Clifton Park and Morrell Park.

City budget officials say as many as 10 centers could close if the current RFP process is not successful, although Tyler has pledged to keep all 55 centers open through the fiscal year ending in June.

Rec Centers Subject to Private Bids

The area of the city most impacted by the mayor’s privatization plan is northeast Baltimore, where five centers (Cecil Kirk, Collington Square, Northwood, Oliver and Woodhome) are slated for private operation.

On the other hand, the city seeks to reopen, under private management, two long-closed facilities – the ex-Police League Athletic (PAL) center in West Baltimore and Bocek Rec Center in far East Baltimore.

The following 18 facilities are available to private bidders as part of the city’s RFP process.

No bid has been officially approved yet.

Included are the centers’ street addresses and neighborhoods they serve.

3100 East Madison St.
McElderry Park/Madison-East End
(now closed)

3560 3rd Street
Brooklyn/Curtis Bay

2000 Cecil Ave.
East Baltimore Midway

2621 Winchester St.

1409 N. Collington Ave.
Broadway East/Berea

1601 Madison Ave.
Madison Park/Upton

1530 N. Bentalou St.
Easterwood Park/Penrose/Coppin Heights
(now closed)

2304 Greenmount Ave.
Barclay/Charles Village

2950 Phelps Lane
St. Joseph’s/South Hilton/Irvington

3901 Maine Ave.
Forest Park/Ashburton/Hanlon Park

1310 N. Stricker St.
Upton/Druid Heights/Sandtown-Winchester

1517 Winford Rd.
Loch Raven, Perring Loch, Woodbourne Heights

1600 N. Spring St.
Oliver/Broadway East

2610 Francis St.
Penn North/Reservoir Hill

1201 N. Rosedale St.
Rosemont/Franklintown Road
(now closed)

1044 Leadenhall St.

4100 Towanda Ave.
Park Heights/Towanda Grantley

7310 Moyer Ave.
Overlea/Taylor Heights

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