The swimming pools are still filled with construction materials, and the floor of the gymnastics center needs a mat. But in another five months, Prince George's County officials expect all of the work to be done at the long-awaited state-of-the-art athletic center in Landover, the final payment to the county in a deal with Jack Kent Cooke that gave the Washington Redskins a new stadium.
Officials now are trying to sell naming rights to the center and many of the sports venues inside and out. Scheduled to open in December, the sports center will be one of only a few in the country that can support national sporting events such as world-class swimming and high-level gymnastics competitions.
The complex, which has been described as 50 feet longer than the Washington Monument is tall, is part community center and part Olympic-caliber training and competition center. It will be a place where residents can go to work out. A 25,000-square-foot fitness center will have free-weight and cardiovascular areas, aerobics and dance studios, a fitness space for children, party rooms, baby-sitting rooms, lockers, restrooms and classrooms.
But it also will be capable of hosting track meets and trade shows.
The private management company hired by the county to run the mammoth complex is in the process of putting together a 23-member executive team. And while construction workers install an elevator and finish the stairwells of the two-story structure, a sales team is soliciting corporate sponsorships.
Paul Brailsford, vice president of Washington-based Centers, which will operate the facility, said the name of the community center--now called the sports and learning complex--will be changed to include the name of the corporation that sponsors it. He said the company has been negotiating with technology firms, banks and software companies.
"While we haven't gotten to the point of closing any deals, we have yet to get a lukewarm response," he said.
Brailsford said response has been positive because businesses recognize that the complex will give them quite a bit of exposure. Officials expect that the facility will draw a number of national sporting competitions in track, gymnastics and swimming.
"This building will probably be on ESPN 10 times a year," Brailsford said. "And because it's next to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, it will get a lot of exposure."
The complex sits on 80 acres off Sheriff Road in the shadow of the stadium, which opened in September 1997.
There is certainly not another facility like it in the county. Or in the Washington region, which is a source of pride for county council member Marvin F. Wilson (D-Glenarden), who is largely responsible for getting Cooke to donate $3 million to get the facility started. The entire price tag is closer to $32 million, much of it paid for by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which owns and manages parks facilities in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
"Our kids are interested in track and field," Wilson said last week, as he and seven other council members took a private tour of the facility. "It seemed to train in Olympic-quality facilities, we had to take them out of the state."
The indoor field house, which will seat 3,000 spectators, has a 200-meter, six-lane track. It will be able to accommodate indoor soccer events, volleyball, basketball and a batting cage. A 160-yard, three-lane jogging track overlooks the 200-meter track.
The gymnastics center seats 1,000 in bleachers overlooking a 25,000-square-foot main floor with fixed mats, a vault runway and a pit system. There is also a children's area and a warm-up and dance room.
The aquatics facility has a 50-meter competitive pool with movable bulkheads and floor. The facility has seating for 1,500.
Bob Keil, chief executive of the complex, said tickets will be sold to sporting events in these venues. He said prices for residents to use the other parts of the facility have not yet been determined.
One of the areas designed for the community is a leisure pool with a slide. Another is an atrium that will serve as the entryway to the complex.
Keil said he envisions the entryway to be a "Main Street" of sorts, with traveling exhibits that the public may view for free. The lobby and glass-walled structure run the length of the building and overlook the field house, aquatics and gymnastic centers. It will have food service and retail areas and a rock-climbing wall.
Another track has been built on the grounds of the complex. The 400-meter competitive track can accommodate in-field field events and is lighted. There is an irrigated football field in the center of the track and hillside seating for spectators.
The grounds of the complex also features a three-acre pond, pedestrian trails, a picnic area, a playground and a fossil interpretation area.
"We think it represents the crown jewel in our pretty full crown of unique facilities in Prince George's County, said Marye Wells-Harley, the county's director of parks and recreation.
CAPTION: When the Prince George's sports and learning complex in Landover is completed, it will house facilities for sports including basketball, swimming, gymnastics and dance. Officials are trying to sell naming rights to the center, one of only a few like it in the country.