Construction of a $32 million community sports complex brokered as part of the deal to bring the Washington Redskins to Prince George's County is 90 percent complete and scheduled to open in December.
County Council members got their first peak yesterday at the inside of the facility, which features an indoor field house with a 200-meter track, a fitness center, a gymnastics center, an aquatic center and classrooms.
Construction dust still covers the concrete floor of a large open entryway, which has nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that look into the gymnastics and aquatic centers on one side and the field house on the other. The complex, located on 80 acres of land next to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Landover, is 50 feet longer than the Washington Monument is high.
"This is phenomenal, just phenomenal," said council member Audrey E. Scott (R-Bowie), who donned a yellow hard hat to tour the facility. "Hopefully, next time we come, it will be filled with people."
County officials had hoped to open the facility almost two years ago, in time for the first kickoff at Cooke Stadium. But the project was delayed by a disagreement over financing, and then by bad weather after the groundbreaking last year.
It was during negotiations over a new stadium that Jack Kent Cooke offered $3 million to jump-start the sports complex, an idea championed by council member Marvin F. Wilson (D-Glenarden) because of neighborhood concerns about the stadium's impact. The state chipped in about $5 million. The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission is paying for the rest.
Wilson said that he was frustrated that young athletes in the county had to leave the state to train and to compete at Olympic-quality sports facilities. "This was my vision. A lot of people don't remember that," Wilson said yesterday, as he stood near the entrance to the aquatic facility, which has seating for 1,500 spectators, a competition pool with a movable bottom and a leisure pool with water slides.
The facility will be managed by Centers, a private company based in Washington. Vice President Paul Brailsford said that the company is looking for corporate sponsors for the facility and for the various centers inside.
The county is also negotiating with private vendors to develop about 13 acres of land next to the center. One company has proposed a basketball center at which customers would pay to use gym facilities.
As with other park facilities in the county, there will be a fee to use the sports and learning complex, as it is now called. Bob Keil, chief executive of the sports complex, said that once a management team is in place, it will decide how much residents will pay to use the complex.
"The community has to be and will be our first concern, and it doesn't matter age or income level," he said. "They have to be welcome through our doors."
CAPTION: Prince George's County officials listen to introductory comments before beginning a tour of the new Landover sports complex. One County Council member called the facility "phenomenal, just phenomenal."