An abandoned roller rink behind the Potomac Community Center may become a sports arena for residents with disabilities, if a proposal by the Special Olympics Maryland has wheels.
Pamela Yerg, county director for Special Olympics Maryland, a Potomac resident and member of Friends of the Potomac Community Center, launched the idea when she sent a letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett suggesting the rink be used to fulfill the need for adaptive sports facilities in the community.
“The contained and flat, even and cushioned surface of a multi-sport surface on the rink would provide a perfect environment for adaptive sports training and adaptive play for people of all ages with disabilities,” she wrote in an email. “My vision was to re-purpose something that has generated discord and has come to disrepair, and create, in its place, a facility and a message that we as a community could be very proud of.”
Montgomery County Recreation officials held a public meeting Thursday night to explore the idea of repurposing the roller rink at Potomac Community Center as an accessible sports area.
A small but volatile group attended the meeting. Thirteen people sharing their opinions for and against the idea, sometimes in heated cross discussions.
“The concept is to add a soft surface to the existing floor of the rink that would accommodate adaptive sports and assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers,” Jeffrey Bourne, Department of Recreation division chief, said.
Bourne said the idea for the adaptive use of the rink came after the department asked for Requests for Proposal for fields on the site, with the idea of tearing up the rink and using the space for fields.
He stressed that the meeting was just the beginning of a process to see what the community wanted for the space. He said there is no budget or timeline at this point.
A group of about seven neighbors living close to the center said the rink had been an “attractive nuisance” since it was erected in 1997 citing noise, foul language during the adult games, bright lights and trash among the problems.
“You can’t deny the history of the thing,” James Krzyminski, a neighbor whose backyard joins the Community Center property, said. “The first time there was a roller hockey game for adults we were in our backyard and it was like a riot broke out with all the noise.”
Public outcry led to changes in the number of hours the rink was used, the elimination of adult games and removal of the stadium style lighting, Krzyminski said.
He said he would like to see the rink taken down and the land reclaimed as playing fields.
The rink has not been used for at least five years, William Kaarick, recreation department facilities specialist, said. The sport of roller hockey did not really catch on he added.
Steven Landsman, vice chairman of the Friends of the Potomac Community Center, read a statement in support of the reconfiguring of the rink for adaptive use. He said the property already has additional handicapped parking spaces and the necessary grading in place to allow disabled participants to access the rink area.
“There is no other location in the county like the one here at the Potomac Community Center and to restrict the use of the rink and cause it to sit dormant is not giving the citizens of Montgomery county the opportunity to utilize the facility to its highest and best use,” he said.
Bourne ended the meeting with the promise to share the information generated at the meeting with all the department heads involved in the decision.
“I can’t tell you when a decision will be made,” he said.