A $225,000 boxing gymnasium in Palmer Park, to be used by Prince George's County youngsters, is being furnished with the help of world welterweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard.
The Sugar Ray Leonard Gymnasium Training Center, located in Leonard's hometown, will be "the nicest boxing gym on the East Coast," said Leonard's attorney, Mike Trainer of Silver Spring. Leonard will provide as much as $10,000 worth of equipment for the gym, Trainer said. The gym is located at 7709 Barlowe Rd., across from the city's community center.
The new gym is to be dedicated Monday at 2 p.m. by Leonard and Prince George's County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan. Participating will be Oscar Thomas and Ernest Gray, president and vice president of the Palmer Park Citizens Association.
The new facility is located in space formerly occupied by stores in the Palmer Park Shopping Center. The shopping center is being renovated as part of a $1.2 million federally funded project, said Bob Hunter, spokesman for Hogan. Part of the shopping center will be converted to condominiums. There also will be a few stores and space for county agencies.
Under discussion is a lease to be signed by Leonard and the county that will allow the fighter to use the facilities for a specified number of weeks each year. Leonard has volunteered to pay to use the facility but the terms have yet to be worked out, Trainer said.
Trainer said Leonard is associating himself with the gymnasium to "provide a safe facility for young people to train in. It will help take boxing out of the alleys."
But, Trainer cautions, "this facility is not being built for Ray to train in, although we've agreed to work there for a period of time. We don't need a gym. Normally, the fight promoter provides a facility in the city where the fight is being held. But anybody who runs a gym is tickled to death to have Ray work out at his place.
"I don't like this as a publicity ploy. We're not doing this to draw attention that Ray is some sort of philanthropist. Prince George's County did something for him and he'd like to make it easier for someone who wants to be the next Sugar Ray Leonard. If adding his name to something will help, that's fine. But I doubt if he uses it more than two or three times a year."
Leonard will use the gym this week in preparation for his Feb. 15 title defense against Bruce Finch in Reno, Nev. "He's probably not going to spar, but he'll use the speed and heavy bags and jump rope and stuff."
Leonard will provide gloves, speed and heavy bags, saunas, showers and bleachers for the 10,000-square-foot gym, which also will be the coordinating center for the 10 boxing centers in Prince George's County, under the supervision of the Maryland National Capitol Park and Planning Commission.
A boxing director will be chosen before the facility opens for public use, Reed said. No date has been set.
The county will staff the gym, for the most part, by closing down the Oak Crest Community Center in District Heights, which is outdated and dilapidated, according to Robert D. Reed, community relations officer for the parks commission.