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District officials recently broke ground on what will not only become a new recreation center in Anacostia, but Ward 8’s first newly constructed recreation facility in 20 years.
Once finalized, Anacostia Recreation Center will be located near Ketcham Elementary School in Southeast.
Amenities will include a gymnasium and fitness center, basketball court, playgrounds for children between 2 and 12 years old, demonstration kitchen, classrooms and multipurpose rooms, a promenade connecting 14th and 15th streets in Southeast, multi-use outdoor field, free internet access and a generator with 72 hours of energy storage in the event of a power outage.
On Monday, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) heralded Anacostia Recreation Center as a step in the right direction for a community he described as in dire need of resources.
“Ten recreation centers closed down and we set out on a mission to right this wrong, White said.
“A recreation center is not just a building; it’s a site for fun and… for learning and instructional opportunities,” White continued. “We knew this was the right spot. This is another step forward to quality health and equitable services. We owe it to our children to give them what we had.”
Anacostia Recreation Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024.
The groundbreaking comes more than two weeks after Tynea Cook, Bernard “BJ” Hodges, and Reginald Gilbert lost their lives in a hail of gunfire on the 1600 block of Good Hope Road in Southeast.
Hodges, a longtime Southeast resident and father of four, had been heavily involved in connecting residents with resources for professional advancement and mediating conflict between warring groups. As White and others mentioned during a press conference earlier in August, Hodges had also been a key advocate for the development of Anacostia Recreation Center.
On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) didn’t hint at whether she would rename Anacostia Recreation Center in honor of Hodges. She instead alluded to a process through which residents can petition for a name change.
Those who joined White and Bowser near 14th and U streets in Southeast on Monday morning included Ketcham Elementary School principal LaCondria Beckwith, D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Director Thennie Freeman, Department of General Services (DGS) Director Delano Hunter and a hodge-podge of advisory neighborhood commissioners.
Also in attendance were members of Hodges’ family, all of whom posed with White around a framed photograph of Hodges.
Tempie Satcher, Hodges’ mother, told the Informer that she plans to launch a campaign to rename Anacostia Recreation Center in her late son’s honor. She said that Hodges’ legacy will be about helping others and using what he learned as a youngster to positively impact his community.
“All of his life, BJ has seen the parks and recreation programs,” said Satcher, a former DPR recreation specialist. “Even while outside and dedicated to friends and families, he was listening to me and seeing what I was doing. This [recreation center] showed me that he listened to my feedback. So now, my spirit is so happy.”
Years before breaking ground on Anacostia Recreation Center, DPR and DGS collaborated on the construction of Ferebee-Hope Recreation Center in Southeast. Upcoming projects include Congress Heights Recreation Center and Fort Greble Recreation Center, the latter of which has been an ongoing topic of concern among Bellevue residents.
All the while, DPR rolled out a plethora of programming across the city for mid-winter break and summertime, including outdoor movie nights, Late-Night Drip, a Barbie-themed tennis bash, Jazz in the Park, and most recently, Chuck Brown Day celebration at Fort DuPont Park in Southeast.
Earlier this month, registration opened for fall recreation programming. In the coming weeks, young people can participate in aquatics, team sports, fitness classes, cooperative play for toddlers, and introduction to piano.
In her remarks, Freeman assured generations of Anacostia residents that District officials had them in mind during the planning process for Anacostia Recreation Center. With the start of another school year, she relished the thought of all of them, and young people in particular, would be able to find something of value in the new facility.
“This will be the first recreation center in historic Anacostia and that by itself is something we should all be proud of,” Freeman said.
“The demonstration kitchen is a place where colleagues and business owners can teach residents how to cook and get their food handler certifications,” she added. “Playground equipment was built with intentionality. People of all ages can come out for a well-lit safe stroll. From the cradle to the grave, we are here to serve.”