Community meeting to discuss transformation of Utz Field, Baker Rec

Written by on April 18, 2012 in Featured - 1 Comment

Those who are interested in improvements to Patterson Park should make tracks over there for a meeting.

Work has already begun on the Patterson Park Youth Sports Center at Utz Field. Private foundations are underwriting much of the work. (Photo courtesy Living Classrooms Foundation)

The meeting, held on Monday, April 23, 7 p.m. at the Virginia Baker Rec Center, will discuss improvements to two essential aspects of the park: Utz Twardowicz Field, and Virginia Baker Rec Center.

Utz, as the locals call it, is next to the Mimi diPietro Family Skating Center near Linwood Avenue. It has seating and lighting (making it unique among a lot of municipal fields) and gets much use throughout the year for soccer, lacrosse and football.

And like many park fixtures, it has gotten worn through the years and has needed updates at various times. The field was originally built in 1970, and named after Twardowicz, the director of the Highlandtown Red Shield Boys Club from 1948-1969, according to the Friends of Patterson Park web site. In 1999, the field was renovated with a $100,000 grant from the NFL.

But nothing lasts forever, and in June of 2011, ground was broken on a new Patterson Park Youth Sports Center Powered by Under Armour” at Utz Field. Partners on the project include Living Classrooms Foundation, Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, Baltimore City Public School System, Under Armour and Charlesmead Foundation.

According to information published on Living Classrooms’ website, “The Patterson Park Youth Sports Center Powered by Under Armour will offer youth and families a safe place to exercise, participate in physical education classes, and play sports.

The facility will include a multi-purpose turf field, renovated stadium, learning pavilion, and a newly constructed 5,000-square-foot educational building that will house year-round programming, led by Living Classrooms Foundation, focused on health and wellness. This site will serve students in surrounding schools in East Baltimore, including schools located in the Target Investment Zone.”

Kathy Harget, executive director of the Friends of Patterson Park, says the field will be made of artificial turf.

“It winds up meaning less time spent mowing — and the city’s staff is already being stretched,” she notes. “And more time on the field is possible for more kids.”

Because synthetic turf fields do not need to be rested between uses, it does not get ‘skinned,’ the term for fields where the grass wears off in high-traffic areas. Synthetic fields also use a drainage system that moves water off the turf after a rain so that the fields are playable sooner, since they are not muddy.

In addition, the fields will not require irrigation or mowing, meaning less time spent on maintenance.

The meeting on April 23 will discuss use of the field. According to Harget, $3 million has been allocated from the city schools budget to go toward the new field. The field currently sees, and will continue to see, heavy use by local schoolchildren, such as those attending Hampstead Hill, Tench Tilghman, Commodore John Rogers and William Paca, among others.

“Part of the arrangement is that before 6 p.m., the schools and Living Classrooms will have priority use on the field,” notes Harget.

The new learning pavilion will be built near the field, according to Harget; meeting participants can expect to learn a bit more about this structure as well. Living Classrooms will be responsible for the programming in this building.

Virginia Baker Rec Center

The Virginia Baker Rec Center, a fixture in Patterson Park, will also be discussed during the meeting. Harget confirmed that plans for renovation are underway, and says these will be shared with the community at the meeting.

In 2011, it was revealed by city officials that the Baker Center would not be closed or privatized, but would receive physical modifications and upgraded facilities. According to a report published by the city that November, the Department of Recreation and Parks had allocated funding to allow the Baker Center to become “an expanded, environmentally-friendly community center.”

One meeting about the center has already been held, and this subsequent meeting will discuss specific recommendations.

According to a fact sheet published by the Mayor’s Task Force For Recreation Centers, the department will construct a total of three new community centers and substantially renovate and expand one center at a total cost of $14.8 million. In Patterson Park, the Baker Center is scheduled for expansion from 12,200 to 18,000-20,000 square feet; the construction will add classrooms and recreational spaces. While programming will be offered for all ages, there will be an emphasis on youth programs and activities.

To download the report and a fact sheet and implementation plan for Baltimore’s Rec Centers, can go++ to In that report is a full list of which centers will receive which improvements.

Note: The community meeting to discuss renovations to Utz Field and Patterson Park Rec Center will be held on Monday, April 23, 7 p.m. at the Virginia S. Baker Rec Center. The public is welcome.

by Mary Helen Sprecher

One Comment on "Community meeting to discuss transformation of Utz Field, Baker Rec"

  1. srb April 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm · Reply

    It’s unclear exactly what they want to discuss at the meeting and what sort of questions they’re asking for public input on.

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