Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced plans for funding new fitness centers, athletic fields, swimming pools and splash pads throughout the city, which is expected to cost $136 million.
Her $146 million plan includes rehabilitating or building 11 fitness and wellness centers at the cost of $84 million. Another $20 million would be used to renovate five community centers, as well as $20 million more that would go to upgrading four outdoor sports centers. She also wants to upgrade four existing outdoor pools and three spray pads, which would cost about $13 million.
Three years ago, Rawlings-Blake made the controversial decision to shut down several recreation centers and turn some over to other operators as part of the plan to save funds that could be used on the renovation of existing rec centers and the construction of new centers.
To further fund the new plan, Rawlings-Blake is calling for the sale of four parking garages in downtown Baltimore. Financial analysts expect the the plan would net the city between $40 million and $60 million from the sales, save money on operating expenses and generate tax revenue from the private owners.
However, the plan has faced backlash from the City Council, and City Council president Bernard C. “Jack” Young has not allowed the bill to move forward. He instead wants two large new recreation centers to be built on the east and west sides of Baltimore. Young questions whether selling the parking garages and forgoing the revenue generated by them is the best idea, suggesting that if the city kept the parking garages, they could use the money made from those to gradually pay for recreation improvements.
Rawlings-Blake’s overall goal with her recreation plans is to add at least 10,000 new families to the city of Baltimore, both by drawing in new families and giving current residents a reason to stay.