Montgomery County officials plan to say goodbye to smaller community recreation centers for big complexes that combine indoor aquatics centers and recreational facilities.

The proposed "mega centers" would be built over the next 20 years in four key locations that are showing the most population growth -- Clarksburg, Shady Grove, White Flint and downtown Silver Spring.

The Montgomery County Recreation Department proposed the plan at a County Council Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday.

The plan is in its early stages -- meaning combined aquatics and community centers won't be popping up anytime soon. Jeffrey Bourne, chief for facilities and capital programs, told the committee it would be more costly for the department to keep adding smaller community centers than add larger, centrally located campuses.

By the department's estimates, the county would have to build 10 to 12 community centers in the next 20 years on top of the 24 it already has.

Bourne said if the county built four mega centers in largely populated and growing areas, it would -- in theory -- save the department money.

"There is a common-sense strategy where we could provide regional facilities and locate them somewhere in the core segment of the county," he said.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large, said the idea is in its infancy, but acknowledges many county and city governments are opting to use larger, combined facilities.

But she said she is interested in seeing more developed plans for the complexes.

"What they look and feel like is to be determined," she said. - Kate Jacobson