It’s the place where everybody knows you’re name – and no it’s not Cheers. Founded by a middle school teacher in the 1960s, the Dumbarton Weightlifting Club has been a mecca for weightlifters across Maryland.
Located in the basement of Dumbarton Middle School, the gym started with just a single barbell and a platform. Since then, the gym has increased in both members and equipment. It’s now a staple in the Roger’s Forge community.
Dave Batten has been a member of the Dumbarton Weightlifting Club since 1972. He currently volunteers as a shift supervisor.
“This is a neighborhood gym primarily, although we have people coming from Frederick, we have people coming from Bel Air, we have people coming from Canton, who have been members just about forever,” Batten said.
The gym caters to Olympic athletes, power lifters and general fitness enthusiasts.
“Most of the equipment here is not good for standing around and doing a jog,” Batten said. “It’s primarily used by people who are using dumbbells and barbells and doing some heavy lifting.”
It’s a unique place. You won’t find personal trainers, complimentary coffee or hot towels, but if you want to do some heavy lifting next to a handful of people with the same goals, this is your place.
“I always refer to this place as the Rocky gym, not the Apollo Creed gym,” said Tim Guarino, the director of the Olympic weightlifting program. “And people looking for the Apollo Creed gym, they just walk in and go this isn’t for me and they go. They go to the polished gyms. This place is just a little bit off the polished edge.”
Several Olympic athletes as well as members of both the Baltimore Colts and Orioles have trained at the gym. It’s full of history and character, but its future is in jeopardy.
Dumbarton Middle School is scheduled for renovations beginning June 2016, affecting the weightlifting club’s space in the school’s basement. Initially the club was receiving mixed messages about when they would have to leave, if there would be a temporary facility and what the future held. Members were nervous that they would have to find a new location.
“We’re not really sure what is in store for the gym,” Guarino said. “We’re hoping that they’re going to say, ‘hey we’re going to find another way to keep you going,’ but for right now we’re just in the hold mode. Nothing new. We’re tough people, we’ll make it. If we have to start someplace else, it’ll be hard on some of us, but we’ll do it.”
After reaching out to Baltimore County Public Schools, the chief communications officer, Mychael Dickerson said that the following agreements were made to accommodate the Dumbarton Weightlifting Club and the staff assigned to the site:
- BCPS would provide a temporary location for the Towson/Towsontowne Recreation Office and storage container for the Towson Weight Program’s equipment. Both of these temporary facilities would be placed at Dumbarton MS.
- BC Rec & Parks will attempt to locate an alternate location for the weight training program to operate during the construction project. Alternate space for this program has been identified at the Northeast Regional Recreation Center, however these rooms will need to be renovated prior to being used by the weight training program. As soon as project dates are available we will share them with the recreation council and weight training program. We anticipate that the length of time for this renovation is much shorter than that of the project scheduled to take place at Dumbarton MS. As a result, we hope that the program’s ability to operate will only be interrupted for a short amount of time.
- BC Rec & Parks staff will be contacting the recreation council and weight training program to set up a meeting to discuss the current status of this project, as well as plans for the program during the construction project at Dumbarton MS.
Brandon Deimel, an active member of the Dumbarton Weightlifting Club said that he’s happy to see that Baltimore County has opened the communication and offered a solution. The proposed solution is aimed to keep the gym functioning for the maximum amount of time.
“The best solution would be to stay where we are, but this sounds like a pretty good solution,” Deimel said.
Since the basement is part of the school’s renovation project, all of the gym’s equipment will have to be removed in the first two weeks of June. From there, the club has permission to operate from Northeast Regional Recreation Center. The rec center is currently undergoing renovations, which are expected to be completed sometime in June. When the renovations are complete, the Dumbarton Weightlifting Club can move in.
Members of the Dumbarton Weightlifting Club met with Baltimore County officials Friday January 22 to discuss the project status and survey the temporary location.
There are still questions of logistics, but Deimel hopes that the communication remains open and fluid.
“Assuming the renovations are done in a reasonable amount of time, this is a good solution, or at least one we can live with,” Deimel said.
The longest the gym was closed in the past was eight months. Members hope to be back at Dumbarton Middle School, in a completely renovated basement, by August of 2018.