Bel Air Athletic Club’s planned closure leaves parents scrambling to get daycare — The Baltimore Sun

Bel Air Athletic Club will close on February 16 after providing physical, social, educational and childcare opportunities to the Bel Air community for more than 40 years.

The reason for the closure, according to the club’s website, was that “the landlord has decided to re-purpose the property”.

“The closing of the Bel Air Athletic Club is a tremendous loss to the community,” Harford County Executive Bob Caselli said in a statement. “It is a shame that the Town of Bel Air has not been able to hold such a valuable asset.”

Located at 658 Bolton Street, the club is owned by Wellbridge, a Denver-based company that operates fitness facilities across the country. The company purchased the club in 2000, Health Club Industry Reports. Wellbridge also owns the Maryland Athletic Club in Baltimore.

“Since the closure of COVID-19 and its continued impact on our industry, Wellbridge Estate has worked diligently with the landlord to negotiate rent that leads to sustainable and healthy business,” reads a post on the club’s website. “In conjunction with this, our team has routinely gone above and beyond to meet your health and wellness needs while working to return the business to profitable levels.”

Neither Wellbridge nor club management responded to The Aegis’ requests for information on Tuesday.

Bel Air Town Manager Edward Hopkins said he was “as surprised as anyone” and the closure was “completely new information” for him.

“I checked with our economic planning and development team, and no one knew or had any idea what their decision was,” Hopkins said.

He said he was unaware of the closure until Monday night, via Facebook, Harford County residents found out about the news. The shutdown quickly became a trending topic on Facebook in Harford County, with residents posting about its demise and speculating about what would replace it. A resident shared the art rendering of The Shops at Harford, the new shopping center being built near Harford Mall, which showcases new apartments behind the shops. The club is located behind The Shops in Harford development.

“Contrary to social media statements, we also know that there is no connection between the proposed development at Harford Mall and… [Bel Air Athletic Club]Hopkins said. “We had no prior indication, whatsoever, that the clubs would close or what the business owner intended to do with the property once the business closed.”

Besides fitness and other services, the sports club offered pre-school for children ages 2 to 4, and pre- and after-school programs for children from Kindergarten through eighth grade.

She’s been busy responding to panicked parents trying to find a place for their children in a tight market, where childcare is in high demand and job opportunities are few, Colleen Donahue, principal of Bel Air Senior Preschool, said Tuesday. . Between the time she opened and lunchtime on Tuesday, she had given six parent rides and made many calls and had more than 20 email inquiries about openings for their children.

“We feel about the families,” Donahue said. “Children started to have a sense of normalcy this school year and now they are being taken away from them. It is 2020 again.”

Donahue has reached out to other daycare and preschool centers through the Harford County Director Association’s Facebook page to try to help the families. Centers in Forest Hill and Bel Air have responded, but most acknowledge that availability is limited, especially for infants and young children.

The Donahue Center does not have any openings for this school year and will open registration for the next school year on January 23. She said these slots will be limited because most of the slots will be filled by siblings of children who are currently enrolled.

Donohue also requested appointments for teachers who will lose their jobs when the club closes next month. She said that many teachers have been employed by the club for a long time and described them as “all good people and really great teachers.

“We’re just trying to solve the problem,” she said. “This was not a good transition plan.”

She also wonders why the owners can’t wait until June to close the club, so the kids can finish the school year and the swim clubs can finish the season, said Donahue, who has a family membership to the club.

“You’re getting rid of a health center when people need it most,” she said.

Members who do not attempt to cancel their membership will be charged 50% of their monthly dues for the month of February and will be able to use the club until February 16th. Anyone who does not wish to use the club during the month of February must fill in this fee. a Early membership cancellation form on the club’s website by January 31.

All club memberships will be canceled on February 17th.

Any club patrons who have questions regarding their membership can email BelAirClubClosing@wellbridge.com. More information can be found on the club’s website https://wellbridge.com/bel-air-athletic-club/.

Maria Morales, editor of Aegis newspaper, also contributed to this article.

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