After interrupted pool season, DC welcomes swimmers to a renovated, renamed rec center

With a countdown, followed by a bunch of splashes, the District kicked off the 2021 pool season. This comes after the city made the difficult decision in 2020 to call off the pool season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

After last year’s pool season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, D.C. splashed down to the 2021 pool season from a newly renovated and renamed recreation center in Benning Park.

The Woody Ward Recreation Center, formerly the Benning Park Recreation Center, was named after Woody Ward, who died four years ago. He was a former professional football player and worked at the recreation center for more than 47 years.

Delano Hunter, director of D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said Ward was a staple in the community; and to honor him, the city, for the first time, has named a recreation center after someone who was not a Department of Parks and Recreation director.

“I think that really speaks to his legacy and his impact here,” Hunter said.

Woody Ward Jr. said this community and the recreation center meant the world to his father, and he’s thrilled the building now bears his father’s name.

“I am happy for him man, I know he’s smiling down,” Ward Jr. said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser gathered with other city leaders and eager families in Southeast to open the city’s pools.

“This year, because of what everybody is doing, following the public health advice, getting vaccinated, we’re crushing the virus; and we can open up our pools and be ready for summer,” Bowser said.

Hunter said it was a celebration, especially after not opening last year, “maybe for the first time in 70 years.”

The city’s 21 pools will officially open on Saturday, and be open every weekend until Sunday, June 27, from 10:30 a.m. — 6 p.m. Then, on June 28, the pools will be open six days a week through Sept. 6. The city’s 32 splash parks will also open throughout the city.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, there will be no capacity restrictions and masks will not be required. However, unvaccinated people are encouraged to still wear their masks when not swimming.

Delano said for many children, this will be the first time in almost two years they’ll be in a pool. So he’s encouraging parents to keep an extra close eye on their children.

“We’re asking the parents to be extra diligent in monitoring their kids, in addition to our life guards,” Hunter said.

He encouraged parents to put life jackets being offered at the pools on their children.

In addition to the pool, the Woody Ward Recreation Center has an auditorium, dance studio, weight room, computer room, playground and boxing ring that the community can use.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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