Kenilworth Rec Area to Be Revived

By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Under a broiling midday sun this week, Greg Rhett and Clark Ray stood in the middle of the vast Kenilworth-Parkside recreation complex surveying their surroundings.

The Northeast site is 10 acres, but no one else was around, save a reporter, a photographer, three people playing handball on a vertical slab of concrete and a couple others playing tennis on the hard courts nearby.

If the heat kept people away, so did the condition of the playing fields. The track is two lanes of bumpy gravel. Three of six basketball hoops are gone. A makeshift football field was removed a few months ago for a rebuilding project that has been talked about for years but has gone nowhere.

Until now.

Rhett, president of the Eastland Gardens Civic Association, and Ray, external affairs director for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, are spearheading a $4.5 million rebuilding project that is set to begin within days.

When finished, about six months from now, the Kenilworth-Parkside complex is to have a regulation six-lane track, a football-soccer field with lights and bleachers, a high school baseball diamond, repaved basketball courts and parking lot, and a concession stand complete with bathrooms and a storage shed. The new baseball field probably will be used by the Spingarn and H.D. Woodson high school teams.

"The potential is unlimited. I hope we have a brand-new home next fall for the Kenilworth Lions," Rhett said of the peewee football team he coaches.

The Kenilworth-Parkside renovation has been a long time coming.

The park's modern history began in 1972 when the federally owned land was being used as a landfill. Neighbors protested by lying in front of bulldozers, Rhett said, until the landfill was shut down.

To the north of the 10-acre site is the National Park Service's 100-acre Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

The Kenilworth-Parkside recreation center opened in 1973 and features an outdoor pool, tennis courts and a handball wall. Children and seniors alike use the building for daily activities such as dancing and muy Thai martial arts lessons.

In recent years, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee's D.C. subcommittee, sought to use the vast federal acreage near the rec center to build a $5 million federally funded, 20-field soccer complex, but her efforts were blocked by neighbors who argued that the community would be better served by a multi-use facility.

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