Close Menu
Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Ocean Pines Racquet Center building still closed pending full mold investigation

The Ocean Pines Racquet Center building remains closed pending conclusion of a full investigation into allegations about the existence of mold.

Courts reopened after initial concerns quelled

Pines racquet players

Players are pictured on the courts at the Dean Pines Racquet Center.
Tara Fischer/Bayside Gazette

By Tara Fischer, Staff Writer

Concerns about potential mold led to the temporary closure — and partial reopening — of the Ocean Pines Racquet Center last weekend and early this week.

At a March 23 Ocean Pines Board of Directors meeting, Racquet Sports Advisory Committee members advocated for a proper expansion of the racquet center building and a mold inspection, which led to the board temporarily closing the facility pending a comprehensive health evaluation. 

“At the Board of Directors meeting, it was brought to the board’s attention by Racquet Sports Advisory Committee members Karen Kaplan, Suzanne Russell, and Cathy Noble that there were significant concerns regarding suspected mold in the Racquet Sports building, and they made a claim that it made people sick and caused employees to quit,” Ocean Pines Association President Rick Farr said in a news release issued March 24.

The directors decided to temporarily close the racquet center on March 24. Following discussions with the association’s insurance specialist and a preliminary inspection the following day, which found no mold, the courts reopened for players. The building will remain inaccessible, though, until an environmental consultant completes an in-depth assessment and any issues are resolved. 

Per the building’s closure, racquet sports members are not required to check in, Director of Public Relations and Marketing Josh Davis said. Association board members are formulating a revised check-in process that will be communicated with residents. The bathrooms are closed, but temporary accommodations are available near the adjacent dog park. 

“While we understand this closure may inconvenience those who regularly use the center, we believe this proactive measure is necessary to safeguard the well-being of our community members,” OPA General Manager John Viola said in a release. “We will closely monitor the situation and provide updates on the reopening.” 

Racquet sports committee member Suzanne Russell emphasized the need for the health evaluation, citing a 2015 situation in which the golf course building was discovered to contain mold while undergoing renovations. OPA was forced to tear down the entire facility and start from scratch. The incident led to increased project costs, which RSAC is trying to avoid. 

The RSAC members also advocated for properly expanding the racquet center building. Russell proposed that the $150,000 funding approved for the initiative be used for a proper investigation of mold issues, “professional architectural conceptual plans to provide cost estimates…and a licensed structural assessment of the building’s soundness…all of which should be done before any project is started.”  

According to Russell, the committee was presented with a drawing that would double the facility’s size at a May 11, 2023, meeting, and the group voted seven to zero in favor of the proposed plans. However, RSAC was later told that construction could not be expanded beyond the building’s footprint and that a considerable amount of the two-story expansion would be lost to stairs and elevators. 

Russell argued that county-level research revealed permits could be easily obtained for the initially planned racquet center development. The committee, therefore, voted at their March 14, 2024, meeting to pursue a “long overdue and greatly needed expansion to the racquet center building.” Members argue that the current building is undersized and cannot meet the members’ demands, nor can it keep up with increased participation. 

“Today, we have nearly 500 members with five different racquet sports being played,” Russell said. “That number is expanding quickly since pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. The existing building is no longer sufficient in size to meet the racquet sport’s growing membership.” 

The RSAC member highlighted the need to increase the building’s size, claiming that functions had to be moved to the community center’s Assateague Room and the golf club’s meeting spot. She also claimed that the proposed bathroom enlargement leaves little space for pro-shop offices and worries that the facility’s structural soundness is compromised, given its age. The committee maintains that the board-approved renovations do not address these issues. 

Karen Kaplan continued these sentiments. She argued that the building needs a proper central HVAC system, as the current one does not sufficiently ventilate, an upgraded check-in site with windows for employees to monitor players, cameras, and improved shade amenities. 

The committee member also expressed her concerns about the quality of work this project will receive, as funding is only $86 per square foot. “That does not seem nearly enough to do a proper HVAC, new flooring, new walls, and possible mold remediation,” she said.

Kaplan argued that a proper expansion would increase the racquet center’s revenue and make it self-sustaining. Some ideas include offering breakfast food and drinks prepared by the Ocean Pines Yacht Club or the Clubhouse Bar and Grille, holding additional tournaments, selling more equipment and apparel from the pro shop, and cross-marketing to other amenities, like the swim club. 

The next OPA Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, at the Golf Club Meeting Room. 

This story appears in the March 28, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.