$13M Fort Washington facility mixes technology, recreation -- Gazette.Net


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Prince George’s County parks officials said a technology and recreation facility being built in Fort Washington will provide residents with needed community services, as well as serve as a hub for learning and recreation.

The 37,000-square-foot Southern Regional Tech/Rec Complex, scheduled to open early next year, will feature sports amenities that include two gymnasiums, a fitness center and a track, and technology-focused features like a media production studio for residents to learn how to produce music and other multimedia, an environmental learning room and an Internet cafe, a mix unprecedented in southern Prince George’s community centers, parks officials said. The facility also will include an environmental learning room that will provide lessons using some of the building’s “green” features, such as a roof that filters rain water and a geothermal-powered heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.

Kelli Beavers, county division chief for southern area operations, said the agency thought it was only natural to begin implementing technology programming into its community centers.

“Tech and rec are a natural link, and you shouldn’t try to separate them in the 21st century,” Beavers said. “Given just how wired we all are, it would be remiss on our part not to introduce this in the new rec center.”

Larry Quarrick, county division chief for Park Planning and Development, said the $13 million facility is part of his agency’s effort to provide larger regional facilities, like the current Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, that “serve a broader range of residents,” rather than the many smaller traditional community centers peppered throughout the county.

“We do already have some smaller community centers in the area, and they do serve the basic programming needs of the community,” Quarrick said. “But this is meant to be multigenerational in that you can come here with your baby, your toddler, all the way up to seniors, and find something in terms of recreational programming.”

Quarrick said the project is funded through a mix of state and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission funding, including $1 million in state Program Open Space funding approved Sept. 19 by the state Board of Public Works. The Board of Public Works previously approved nearly $2.9 million in funding for the project in October 2007.

Don Herring, senior planner for the county parks department, said the close proximity of other community centers, like the Tucker Road Athletic Complex and Tucker Road Community Center across the street, will enhance the facility’s goal of being a hub for residents to visit for learning and recreation.

“With its proximity to the Tucker Road Athletic Complex and ice rink, and the Henson Creek Hiker Biker Trail, locating [the new facility here] ties it all together,” Herring said. “It’ll be like one big complex for recreation.”

William Jarvis Johnson, president of the parent teacher association for Friendly High School in Fort Washington, said the new facility, while a little smaller than the Sports and Learning Complex, is “sorely needed” by teens in southern Prince George’s County.

“For a long time, we felt like [officials] were putting all their projects in the northern area and were forgetting us,” Johnson said. “We have children at Friendly, at Oxon Hill High, at Surrattsville [High School in Clinton] and at Crossland [High School in Temple Hills] who would love to have somewhere else to go.”

ewagner@gazette.net