In 2008, the sudden closure of Mt. Washington’s Northwest Ice Rink after 50 years in operation stunned the skating community and provoked speculation about the future of the aging facility. After a lengthy period of dormancy, the building under the Smith Avenue Bridge on Cottonworth Avenue will re-open with a completely renovated interior and a new owner whose signs are becoming increasingly familiar in Baltimore.
Coppermine Fieldhouse bought the building, its sixth of seven Baltimore area fitness facility purchases since 2011, according to Coppermine president and owner Alex Jacobs. When the building opens for business sometime in February, the indoor sports facility will offer basketball, soccer, and futsal, a variant of football played mostly indoors.
When asked if he had considered re-opening the facility as an ice rink, the 45-year-old entrepreneur responded: “Maybe for about two seconds.” After learning that the rink was about a foot shy of regulation size, Jacobs chose to focus the facility’s renewal on a use that would appeal to his existing customer base. “A lot of parents wanted basketball,” he said.
Jacobs says the renovated facility will follow the same model as other Coppermine facilities. “We hire great people—great coaches, great staff,” he said. “And we really try to bring in a lot of programs under one roof or within close proximity, offering a brand that people trust. We’re making sure kids are having fun and are engaged and that families are getting what they pay for.”
Coppermine began molding its brand in 2011 when it took over former gymnastics facility Gerstung at 1400 Coppermine Terrace. It soon added a variety of kids’ sports programs, turning the center into what Jacobs calls a “one-stop shop” for kids’ sports. Since then, Coppermine Fieldhouse has expanded its offerings to include both recreation and club team sports, birthday parties, summer camps and ‘schools-out’ camps.
Though known mainly for its child-focused camps and sports programs, Coppermine also owns facilities that cater to adults. Bare Hills Racquet & Fitness Club off Falls Road, purchased by Coppermine in 2016, targets mostly adults with tennis, squash, and group fitness options. Coppermine’s seventh and most recent purchase, the former Green Valley Swim & Tennis Club on Reisterstown Road, will remain a swim and tennis club for families and individuals. But the Coppermine brand focuses primarily on child-centric programs that emphasize diverse offerings and strong leadership.
Beyond its facilities-based operations, Coppermine also has developed partnerships with several area charter schools where it runs daily recess and, in some instances, optional after-school programs.
“Recess has always been a part of the day at Hampstead Hills Academy. But not until Coppermine arrived did we get it right,” said Matt Hornbeck, principal of the PreK through eighth-grade school. “The coaches that Coppermine trains really engage our kids in organized athletic activities. We have 800 kids who benefit from that. We are big fans.”
Jacobs plans to continue expanding, eventually replicating the brand in markets outside of Baltimore. His goal is to acquire two locations per year. “I’ve been an entrepreneur since the age of 10—cutting grass, selling t-shirts and hats in school,” Jacobs said. “I’m passionate about charting my own path.”
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