Bowie wrestles with plan for new athletic option -- Gazette.Net


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Bowie’s ice hockey rink cannot accommodate an increase in players, city gymnasium officials say the basketball courts have been overwhelmed at times and a volleyball enthusiast says teams have trouble finding places to play.

The many needs have made it difficult for leaders, who are weighing whether to add another athletic facility in the city and, if so, what type to build. Bowie officials met with athletic group leaders last week to get their input on what is needed and plan to hold a public meeting May 7 for the public to offer suggestions, said Larry Pierce, director of Bowie’s Community Services Department.

The city needs a multipurpose space capable of supporting another ice rink, said Bill Schmidt, coach of Bowie High School’s hockey team, the Ice Dogs, and a coach with the Bowie Hockey Club. The youth-focused hockey club has been stuck at around 300 players as there isn’t enough time and space at the Bowie Ice Arena for it to be able to add more, he said.

“We can’t grow any more,” Schmidt said. “It denies the opportunity for kids to play the sport.”

Among the 5,000 members of the South Bowie Boys and Girl Club, the biggest complaint among youths is the need for more basketball courts, said Brian Jamison, a board member and football commissioner with the club.

“I’m not sure about soccer and other sports, but definitely an indoor sports complex that includes basketball is needed,” he said.

Bowie has 12 outdoor parks, one indoor ice arena and one indoor athletic facility, the Bowie Gymnasium. The gymnasium, located at 4100 Northview Drive, has seen a steady and at times overwhelming demand for use of the 27,000-square-foot facility since it opened in 2001, said gym manager Donna Hooper.

In the current budget, the City Council authorized a roughly $54,000 study to examine whether the city needs another gym and if so, what type. The study could also conceivably recommend changes in scheduling at existing facilities to such as the Bowie Gymnasium instead of recommending a new gym, Pierce said. Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory was hired in November to get public input on sports needs and analyze resources already available to residents, according to Pierce.

There’s a need for another public gym as groups struggle for space in the Bowie Gymnasium, said Tim Reilly, a Bowie resident and founder and director of Kinetic Volleyball Club. Reilly’s Bowie-based organization has around 80 members but hosts all of its practices in Lanham as it can’t book time at the Bowie Gym, Reilly said.

“We turned away close to a hundred girls this season just due to lack of space,” Reilly said.

amccombs@gazette.net