An Independently Owned Pool The Meadowbrook Program by Murray Stephens  


Published


Murray Stephens, age 46, purchased Meadowbrook in 1986. He has 25 years of experience in swimming pool management and coaching of competitive swimming teams. Since 1969, he has been employed as a teacher and swimming coach at Loyola Blakefield Prep School 011 N. Charles Street in Baltimore. in addition, since 1968, he has also been the head coach of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC) which he also founded. He has been extraordinarily successful in both positions. At Loyola he has consistently had championship teams, including the National Prep School Championship team several years ago, and has produced many All-American swimmers. NBAC has grown to be Maryland’s premier age group competitive swimming program with 90 families involved. At NBAC, Mr. Stephens has produced two Olympic champions (most recently World Record Holder Anita Nall), several national champions, and numerous top age group swimmers. NBAC is an important adjunct to Meadowbrook because NBAC trains at Meadowbrook in the summer and hosts a number of important competitive swimming meets at Meadowbrook. NBAC currently leases staff from Meadowbrook for its coaching and teaching needs. NBAC programs will continue to be part of the overall Meadowbrook operation.

The Meadowbrook Swim Club consists of a 110 foot by 200 foot swimming pool (outdoor) set up  to  include twelve 50 meter competitive swim lanes ,as well as a separate recreational swim area and children’s pool. A 7,400 sq. ft. bath house and buildings located on 7.1 acres of land at 5700 Cottonworth Ave, Baltimore, Maryland  21209. The telephone  number of the club is (410) 433-8722. The site is located near the intersection of Northern Parkway and the Jones Falls Expressway, with excellent expressway access. The Meadowbrook pool is believed to be the finest 50 meter (Olympic  size) competitive  swimming  facility in Maryland.

Outline of a Day at Meadowbrook/NBAC Video I.Photos  of Meadowbrook  in 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s,   60’s, 70’s

  1. Flood photos anyone for mud wrestling

ill. Repair and re-construction of Meadowbrook

  1. A day at Meadowbrook/NBAC action and stills

 

 

You have an outline and there is a 20 min. video of Meadowbrook. I will try and follow  the  outline. When you see the video we have melted photos of Meadowbrook in the 30’s, 40’s, 50′ s and 60′ s in the tour itself. We melted still photos in with live action video. I included a brief budget of NBAC and fund raising printout . Each line represents a family with totals on the right hand columns. The numbers represent two consecutive seasons for fund raising for that family.  We cut the names off to protect the lazy ones.

 

The video covers a day in the life of Meadowbrook and NBAC. Meadowbrook was constructed in 1931 and operated as a public recreational swimming facility  until 1964.   From  1965 to 1986 it  was  under  the same ownership and was managed as a private swim club. In 1986 Meadowbrook was acquired from Mr. Fred Stieber,  who, at age 80,  was  unable to keep  up.

The above outline takes you through the video. Editor’s Note: Mr. Stephens’s comments during the video were not transcribed.


Since I bought the pool  the following  improvements were made:

 

  • Total replacement of the entire filtration and gutter system on the outdoor pool with a new state of the art stainless steel
  • Construction of a stepped raised concrete edge throughout the perimeter of the pool, deepening the pool for competition and making it appear completely new and
  • Tearing out the old massive filter tanks, significantly improving the appearance of the grounds.
  • Installing a concrete “island” across the pool at the 50 meter distance, enabling 12 competitive lanes to be installed complete with new stainless steel starting
  • Adding a main 30,000 sq. ft. parking area and 1200 ft. asphalt entry

 

*  Purchased a full complement of competitive swim­ming and diving equipment.

*  Renovated  two and  added  two  more HAR-TRU surface tennis courts.

* Completed renovating the northern half of the existing building resulting in 3700 sq. ft. of completed space.

  • Added a full restaurant grade food service, walk-in boxes, grill, etc.
  • Added a swim wear pro shop now the most successful competitive wear shop in the Baltimore metro

 

* Added an extensive children’s play area.

 

At NBAC we have 120 kids and keep the groups small. The group sizes in the younger age groups are smaller than the older groups. Kids get a lot of attention. We try and identify the kids that have a lot of desire and get something out of them. One of our motivational deals with 100% attendance. If a swimmer has I 00% for a month,  they  earn a free swim cap with 100% on the side. Don’t settle for less. Whitney Phelps, in four months last fall, only missed 3 workouts in 4 months and 2 of them were mornings. So she made 137 out of 140 workouts. There are not a lot of secrets of doing well except hard work and staying with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I 460×20 $9,200
II 660  x 19 $12,540
Ill 750 X 20 $15,000
[V 860  X  33 $28,380
SR 975  x 15 $14,625
LHS 750  x 12 $9,000
Total We divide the membership dues and all other income and subtract this from the total budget to get a figure required for fundraising. This figure is divided by the number of families and this deter­ mines their fund raising commitment. It worked out to about $655 per family this year. We let the families know what is expected. Somehow by hook or crook, we have to come up with these dollars in order to balance the budget. Most school’s tuition don’t pay the entire amount required to run the pro­ gram. This swim school doesn’t operate on dues alone. So it cost $655 additional to their dues to run the program.


How do we do that. Well, we get $19,000 from meets in the fall, $38,000 from the Christmas  meet, $11,000 from the spring meet, sell Giant certificates etc.  We are not a super big program.  I know other programs whose budgets run $500,000 $750,000. We keep our budget fairly tight. We have a significant fund raising budget for an 80 family team. If you take someone like. They have 8 times the number  of swimmers than we do, but per swimmer, we do quite well for our fund raising.

 

If you look at the fund raising chart you get an idea of what we do. We have been pushing some people who hadn’t done well before. There are a handful  of people who don’t cooperate real well. Those are  8 & under parents and it takes them a while to get generated about how and why they should do this. Somewhere in there is the Stephens Family. We raised over $1,000. I think we are #1 this  year. There is no incentive for being the highest fund raising family.

 

 

Throw a question at me:

 

  1. How often does the area flood?
  2. Once every 100 years the government tells me. The last one was in 1972. They have done some work on the stream. Although it is very possible, the pool has been there since 1930. It has had water on the property at least 3 times and survived everyone. We had to rebuild the pump and dig a lot of mud out.

 

  1. Are you able to get insurance?
  2. Yes, We have federal flood insurance and the new flood insurance projected for the building is called DIC coverage, which is Difference In Conditions. Where another company will back up and take the additional risk that the federal insurance doesn’t cover. We carry $600,000 Federal insurance  and

$1,000,000 DIC insurance for $25,000. The total insurance bill projected for next year is $60,000.

 

  1. Your pool rental which pools do you  rent?
  2. We rent Loyola High School, Townsend State University in the winter. The cost for the Holiday Inn  is a net out figure for the lessons. We  charge  the NBAC a fee to use the Meadowbrook facility in the summer.
  3. How did you finance the club?
  4. I’m not quite sure how we did it in the beginning. In the 80′ s banks were a little more inclined to lend money. I think we  would  never have been able to do  it  in  the lean  and  mean  Clinton  years.   I  did  it with $5,000 down. They loaned me $290,000 and they kicked it up another $100,000 because of debt.

 

  1. Tell us a little about the building program?
  2. I suppose if we do get the building built and we are not bankrupt, John will want us to come back and talk about that. I knew the pool was there, since I lived in Baltimore all my life, but never went to see it. In the early 80′ s,  we were looking to  build  a pool.

Someone mentioned  how big this pool was.  So I took  a look.  This pool  was so big that maybe we could dig  it out and extend it. I thought it was 6ft. deep for like 200 ft. It was only I  ft. deep  at  the  shallow  end.  I went down there in the winter and got in. I got my ruler out and it was 3.6ft. deep at the 50 meter mark. Holy smoke, all you have to do is put a wall  in and  you have a 50 meter pool. I  went  and  talked  to  the old man who owned the pool. He had a reputation of being ornery but he hadn’t met me. It  took  me  two years  to  talk  him  into  selling  the  pool.    I  started in 1983. In December, I formed a relationship with   a construction rental company and  sandblasted  about 85% of the pool. Another person  did  the other 15%. We sandblasted all 27,000 sq. ft. of that pool in December and January  in about 23 days.  It was a lot  of days standing there with a sandblasting hose. We took 600-700 bags of sand and we dug it out with a wheel barrow and shovels. We continued tearing sections of the walls out. I borrowed  all  of  my  credit cards up to $20,000 and then I borrowed against my mother’s stock up to $40,000 and then we started having meetings with all the members. I told them how great everything was going to be. I think there were 200 members of  the summer club at  that  point.  By  the summer we had about 380 members. We took the extra money in dues and reorganized. By June we had spent the money on the $100,000. We had just enough to get through  to  September.  We  hadn’t closed on the property yet, because the old man had some partners and he didn’t tell  them  he  was selling the pool. By the time they got their attorney in and walked around, I told them  they could  have it  back.  At the end of July, we closed on the property.  At the end  of  closure,  I  paid  all  the  bills  and  had     about $5,000 in the bank. I was paying on $50,000 in  bills and the rest is history. The next summer, we remodeled the locker rooms. In 1988 we changed the filters and  the  next summer  the locker  rooms.   I  have about $600,000 in the facility  now.

 

  1. What is your gross for the pool?
  2. This summer it was about $600,000. That is only the pool. Next year it has to be 1.3 million dollars.

 

  1. I am a little confused on the role that NBAC plays in Meadowbrook?
  2. So are all my members.

 

  1. Do you have an initiation  fee for the club?
  2. No. They pay straight yearly dues. So they are not owners. I am the sole stock holder and owner. They have input. I have people who have been members since !930. Buster Crabb swam in this pool. We try to keep them happy. We have never compromised the fact that we will have competitive swimming along with a recreation facility for the members. NBAC is a charitable corporation and Meadowbrook  is a profit organization.

 

  1. What is the structure of the board for NBAC?
  2. We have a parent’s board. We have bylaws and I am the executive director of the program. I suppose if push came to shove in a legal battle the board would have the upper hand. But they don’t. I’ve been  known to fire board members. I don’t do it very often but I have done it. I started the club with another gentlemen in 1967, but we chartered the club in  1968.  We have always run the club that way. We recently had a board meeting and someone asked me about travel money. They said how are we supposed to handle this. I said you are a funnel  for  information. People are talking behind my back, griping and they need to come in and see if we can solve these problems. If we can’t solve the  problems  then  just  go back and tell them it is too bad.  This is the way  we  are going to do it.
  1. Do you maintain your outdoor pool in  the  winter time?
  1. I’m not sure what you mean. It drains itself down to the deep end and happens to put the water back in. God is in control of this pool. In the winter time we turn it over to him. He has done pretty well for 64 years.

 

 

  1. What is the makeup of you team?
  2. We have about 20% out of the Meadowbrook program and we have a couple of families that drive

1.5 hours to workout. Three families. come from Pennsylvania, some come from the eastern shore of Maryland and 25 drive at least 40 minutes. There is a Y and 3 other USS teams in a 3 mile area from us.  Our area is very tightly packed with teams and swimmers usually come to our program last for we are the most expensive. We make them go to practice and work hard. So we tend to pick people a lot further off than locally in general. Some of our local competition does a lot of bad mouthing. No matter how good you are or how long you have been doing the job they still try. People don’t know that they only know what people tell them at summer pools.

 

  1. Why didn’t you do a bubble at your pool?
  2. We were going to do that but one of the government agencies said we had to build a building. We had already priced a bubble. We have trained  out­  doors  as late as the last day  in  September.

 

  1. What do you charge for summer memberships?
  2. $440 family, $315 individual. No bonds, no initiation, just straight money. When we build the indoor pool we are going to try and offer a 2 level member­ship 8 months from mid Sept. mid May and summer 4 months.

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