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Sherwood Ready to Open

Northeast Recreation Center is Years in the Making

More than two decades after Northeast residents first initiated efforts to rehabilitate the recreational area at 10th and G streets Northeast, the new Sherwood Recreation Center is set to open for business.

“I’ve been working on it for 20-some years [so] I guess I should be excited about it,” said Charles Brooks, one of several longtime advocates of the center’s construction.

Mayor Anthony Williams, Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) and other city officials are scheduled to attend the official unveiling at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The two-story, 20,000-square-foot brick structure, designed by BELLArchitects, features a hardwood basketball court, an exercise and weight room, meeting space, as well as outdoor basketball and tennis courts and a walking track.

Once fully operational, computers with Internet connection, a 500-book library and even a day care will be in place, said D.C. Parks and Recreation spokesman Darrick Nicholas.

The center — open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday — will have five full-time staffers and offer a variety of classes, such as dance and aerobics. There will also be senior citizens’ activities and teen clubs, said manager Frank Crawford.

Public input into Sherwood’s programs and activities will be sought at a community meeting at 1 p.m. Oct. 25. Once a recreation advisory council composed of community-elected individuals is in place, programming and other logistical concerns, such as whether to fence off an area for dogs or install removable outdoor basketball hoops, will be decided, Nicholas said.

Parks and Recreation ultimately plans to phase out the recreation centers at nearby Ludlow Taylor and J.O. Wilson elementary schools as part of a broader plan to eliminate school-based rec centers in the District.

“It’s a chance for us to move those services,” Nicholas said of Sherwood’s opening.

For several years, a small, dilapidated structure, which according to Metropolitan Police Lt. Diane Groomes served as a magnet for prostitution and drug dealing, was situated on the then-largely empty two-acre parcel.

Ever since its glory days in the 1960s — when Sherwood’s courts drew a slew of aspiring hoopsters, such as future NBA guard Dave Bing —the area had fallen into a state of severe disrepair.

“It was a recreation center in the beginning, [but] it went down, down, down the hill,” Brooks said.

“It was just ugly,” recalled Groomes, who as the former leader of Police Service Area 510 helped a group of primarily senior citizens spearhead the new center in the 1990s.

Finally, in late 1999 the city demolished the building in anticipation that a new structure would be built.

“All of us were concerned about the way the children were playing in the street,” said resident Alice Bush, adding that over the years she made frequent calls to city officials “each time [the project] was stalled.”

The D.C. City Council approved the project in 2000, and construction commenced in May 2002 on the $4.5 million project.

While the majority of the center’s activities will be free to the public, a small fee will be charged for certain classes and specialized activities, Nicholas said.

However, ANC 6A02 Commissioner Joseph Fengler said the center could apply for funds to offset such costs for lower-income residents through the ANC’s community outreach committee, which is allocated about $8,000 per year in grant monies.

Residents, while generally pleased with the outcome, remain concerned over the level of security and surveillance planned for the center, and point to the lack of an on-site police presence as particularly worrisome.

“There are two things that I think will make it a success or not. First, if they hold to the hours, and second, if they have a uniformed police officer there,” said resident Lance Hassell. “You need to have someone there who has a badge and a firearm.”

Others, such as Erika Fitzpatrick, said the adjacent Prospect Learning Center — currently closed for renovation and a reported draw for a variety of illicit activities — detracted from the overall aesthetics of the neighborhood.

“When you look at the beautiful center and then you look at the school, you say, “Wait a minute. Here we have this amazing facility … and the city and whoever is responsible has shown no care and concern at all [for the school].’”

But on a brisk fall day last week such thoughts were far from the minds of Connor Jacobs and Lovell Walls — a pair of two-year-olds on a play date — as they stood at the tennis court’s edge staring longingly at the empty court.

Taryn Jacobs, Connor’s mother, said her young son couldn’t wait to get on the courts.

“We have a typical Capitol Hill backyard — two feet by four feet,” Jacobs quipped. “I feel like I got a new backyard.”

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