Watch CBS News

Stonewall Sports Baltimore steps in to support LGBTQ+ community

Stonewall Sports Baltimore steps in to support LGBTQ+ community
Stonewall Sports Baltimore steps in to support LGBTQ+ community 02:21

BALTIMORE -- Over the years, the number of gay bars in Baltimore has decreased. For many people in the LGBTQ+ community, those bars were places they could feel safe.

A local sports league has been trying to fill the gap and build a community among LGBTQ+ members in Charm City.

Roosevelt Park hosted Stonewall Baltimore's latest kickball season earlier this year. The team gained momentum in 2021 after the pandemic put things on hold.

"I'd say by the end of 2021, we finally reached a point of getting back to the basics of numbers [because many dropped out of the sport during the pandemic]," Ronny Thompson, Stonewall Sports Baltimore's president and commissioner. "Now we've probably tripled since our first official season, just for kickball alone."

Stonewall Sports Baltimore has a simple mission: create an easy way for the LGBTQ+ community to connect and meet each other.

Community members watched as the Hippo was converted into a CVS store and Grand Central was transformed into a multi-purpose building.

Both clubs were located in Mount Vernon, the city's historic "gayborhood."

Other Mount Vernon businesses are in limbo, too.

The Manor, which is an LGBTQ+-friendly venue, has been closed since December because due to a pipe issue. Meanwhile, Central Bar recently closed amid a search for a new business partner.

The futures of both establishments remain uncertain.

"I don't know if it's because we, as a whole, are feeling more comfortable going to different places now, whether they're deemed gay or straight," Ryan Paul Johnson, Stonewall Sports Baltimore's events director, said. "Or, we're just losing our spaces because no one really cares to run those type of spaces anymore."

While kickball is the chapter's first sport, it has grown to others. Now, there's a trivia league. Also, last month, two new sports joined the roster: dodgeball and volleyball.

With each addition, the aim is to be even more inclusive.

"We launched volleyball because we found it to be really requested for queer women, especially," Thompson said. "We send out constant surveys and feedback of what people want and we pay close attention to the demographic data that we're getting."

The sports league envisions that additional options will appear in the future. But overall, Stonewall Sports Baltimore just wants more things for the LGBTQ+ community to do in Baltimore.

"So that [when they see] a cool event coming on, hopefully, they feel welcome and invited, whether they played a sport or not. Just allowing [Stonewall] to be a one-stop shop for people to create and find community," Austin Bennett, the chapter's director of communications and outreach, said.

Registration for dodgeball closes Monday and starts on July 10.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.