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Grand Opening of Woody Ward Rec Center Kicks off Summer

It’s got a new playground, yes. It’s also got a dance room and a boxing ring. The newly renovated Woody Ward Recreation Center was officially opened Friday, May 28.

The modernization of the Woody Ward Recreation Center (5100 Southern Ave SE), formerly known as the Benning Park Recreation Center, was an $11 million project.

The center has been renamed in honor of Woody “Bubby” Ward, a standout community member, coach, youth mentor, and dedicated DPR recreation specialist who passed away in 2017.

His son, Woody Ward Jr., spoke at the event. “I would like to thank Southeast, definitely, because my father loved you all,” said Ward, Jr. “I know he would be very proud right now.”

Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, DGS Director Kenneth Anderson, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Former ANC Commissioner Ebbon Allen, Woody Ward Jr. and DPR Director Delano Hunter cut the ribbon on the new facilities. Courtesy DPR

DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Director Delano Hunter said that Ward is the first and only DPR employee who was not a Director to have his name etched on a building. “As a recreator, there’s no greater than to have a recreation center named after you,” Hunter said. “With the name “Woody Ward” on the building, we have ensured that he will forever remain etched in our minds and serve as a model for our youth.”

Department of General Services (DGS) Director Keith Anderson, whose agency handles construction and maintenance, said that Ward was “such an honorable man.”

“Woody made this park a special place for the youth, and I’m honored that I had the ability to work with him while I was at DPR,” he said.

Anderson said that Ward regularly inspired others through sport and fitness, “so that they could grow and become a better version of themselves.”

Former ANC 7E Commissioner for the area Ebbon Allen (7E03) thanked the Mayor, Councilmember Vincent Gray (Ward 7-D) and the Benning Park community, and testified to DC Council in favor of renaming the center for Ward.

Allen coached a boy’s basketball team under the direction of Ward, who he said charged him with being a man of his word. “The most impactful investment is to give to those we represent,” he said.

Allen said that as a child, he would walk from Hannah Place as a child, past C.W. Harris past the rec center; almost three decades later, it is a state of the art recreation center. “The work wasn’t easy, but it was well worth it,” Allen said.

The Woody Ward Center is equipped with a new boxing ring and boxing circuit and an updated fitness center with new workout equipment. Other additions include a new gymnasium floor, new pool check-in, pool area drinking fountains, a new reception desk, and people counter to measure capacity. Upgrades included wall to wall mirrors in the dance room, a drop-down screen and projector multipurpose room and upgrades to the Arts & Creativity room. There is also a new kitchen with capacity to serve ready-to-eat meals.

The event not only opened the newly modernized recreation center, it also reopened the pool season after a year’s closure due to the pandemic, possibly the first closure in 70 years, said Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Director Delano Hunter.

For the first time in a year, kids will be able to play in the District’s 21 swimming pools and 33 spray parks when they open Saturday, May 29. Outdoor pools are open weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Memorial Day, May 31 and 6 days a week starting Monday, June 28 through Labor Day. Indoor pools will open with no reservation required as of Tuesday, June 1.

Spray parks will every day from May 29 until Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The full roster of DC DPR summer programs will resume tomorrow, both online and in-person, said Hunter.

“This year, because of what everyone is doing –wearing masks, getting vaccinated, we’re crushing the virus– and we can open up our pools and get ready for summer,” Mayor Bowser said at the ribbon-cutting.

Pool and spray park users who are not fully vaccinated must wear face coverings on the pool deck; all users over the age of 2 must wear them indoors. Learn more, find the pool or spray park near you, learn about summer programs and pool hours by visiting dpr.dc.gov

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