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The Dripby Mark Reutter5:06 pmMay 1, 20120

City to close 4 rec centers in August, 10 others may shut

UPDATED at 9 pm: The Rawlings-Blake administration announced late this afternoon that four city rec centers will permanently close at the conclusion of summer camp on August 10.

The centers – all located in West Baltimore – are Crispus Attucks, Harlem Park, Central Rosemont and Parkview.

In addition, as many as 10 more centers may close if qualified operators are not identified in a process the city will coordinate with the Family League “after the summer of 2012.”

They were identified as Gardenville, Furley, Solo Gibbs, James D. Gross, Hilton, Lakeland, Fred B. Leidig, James McHenry, Oliver and Mary E. Rodman.

Schools to Enter Partnership Agreements

Another five rec centers will be taken over by city schools for “public education and community uses” under a tentative agreement between the administration and the Baltimore City Public Schools, also announced today.

These centers – physically attached to school buildings – are Barclay, Liberty, Walter P. Carter, Leith Walk and South Baltimore.

After-school programming at the centers will be administered by independent parties, Michael Sarbanes, a spokesman for the city schools, said tonight.

The Barclay center will be run by the Greater Homewood Community Corp. and Johns Hopkins University; Liberty by Child First Authority and Ed Tech; Walter P. Carter by an unidentified basketball league; Leith Walk by We Imagine; and South Baltimore by Digital High School.

The administration said that the four centers to close “are located in close proximity to recreation centers that will continue to operate and are also located near private/non-profit recreational resources.”

In addition, two ex-Police Athletic League (PAL) centers closed in 2009 – Bocek in East Baltimore and Rosemont in West Baltimore – will be permanently shut.

Attempts to interest private parties to operate these facilities were unsuccessful, according to the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Spending for State-of-Art Centers

The city said it will spend $19 million over the next few years to build and extensively renovate four centers that will become “state-of-the-art, centrally located community centers geared to serve a wide range of ages and interests.”

The city will continue to operate 31 of the current 55 rec centers under today’s announcement.

The announcements come within hours of a citizens briefing tonight on the mayor’s rec center plans by the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CPHA) in the War Memorial Building opposite City Hall.

In a statement defending the closing of rec centers, Rawlings-Blake said, “Keeping the status quo with dilapidated buildings and depleted staffing and programming is not an option. We need to move forward and make the tough choices and smart investments to create a high-quality recreation center network that will help retain and attract families and grow Baltimore.”

Previously, the city struck deals with private parties to operate the Brooklyn O’Malley, Easterwood, Collington Square and Lillian Jones centers.

Several of these arrangement included one-time city grants of $50,000 or $100,000 to the new operators.

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