Fort Dupont Ice Arena and Nationals Youth Baseball Academy Bring New Opportunities for Children
Located off I-295, Ward 7's Fort Dupont Park is preparing for a busy summer. In addition to hiking trails and annual free concert series, the Fort Dupont Ice Arena will reopen in July, offering classes, camps, and a way to cool off without a swimming pool. Later the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy will open, bringing the sport to an area more known for basketball and football. The ice arena and the upcoming baseball facility aim to teach children new skills and provide learning and recreational opportunities for the community.
Fort Dupont Ice Arena
The Fort Dupont Ice Arena is DC’s only public indoor ice-skating rink. Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena (FDIA), a nonprofit organization formed to save the arena from closure, has managed and operated the facility since 1996, bringing much-needed repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to the 37-year-old building. The process continues even when the rink is closed for spring. “There's still a need for a lot of elbow grease, a lot of love and a lot of paint,” commented Ty Newberry, the general director and executive director for Friends of FDIA.
The rink will reopen on July 1, with summer camps on July 8. “All our camps are popular from year to year,” said FDIA's program director, Leticia Moreno Enos. This year the arena is offering three: a summer skating school, figure skating, and their first annual teen camp for girls. “There really aren't too many options for teen girls,” Enos explained. “It's a great way to stay active during the summer.” Unlike the other camps, the teen girls camp takes beginners as well as more experienced skaters.
“I have nothing but good things to say about the rink and the people who give their time and devotion to make things happen,” said Stacey Kornegay, a Ward 7 resident. Her son has participated in Kids on Ice, a free community ice skating program, since he was seven years old. “Through this magnificent program, which taught him many skills on and off the ice, he was courted by several teams,” Kornegay said. “That was about four years ago.” Today he plays for the NOVA Ice Dogs, who considers FDIA one of their home rinks.
Sheryl Segal credited FDIA for her son Steven's current success. “Becoming a skilled skater and hockey player was invaluable to Steven while he struggled with mastering academic skills,” she explained. “Having physical expertise gave him confidence that was much needed, and I believe was instrumental in helping him to gain a mastery of academia.” Today Steven is an honor roll student, an active hockey player, and a volunteer skate guard at FDIA. “Both the staff and the coaches are so warm and dedicated,” Segal said. “They really believe in the program and go way beyond the narrow confines of work.”
Baseball Comes to Fort Dupont Park
About a block away from the rink construction is underway for the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. The product of a partnership between the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the DC government, the facility could open at the beginning of the next school year. One of its most enthusiastic supporters is Mayor Vincent Gray. “As a lifelong baseball player and fan I am enthusiastic about the Nationals bringing their Youth Baseball Academy to Ward 7,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Nationals organization to complete the Academy and develop programming that will benefit the entire community.”
What to Expect
The $15 million facility will house three types of baseball fields: regulation-size, youth, and softball. Additionally the academy will feature a two-story academic facility with classrooms, a “teaching kitchen,” and an indoor training area with batting cages. “The entire complex will be used as a classroom, and all participants will be encouraged and inspired to learn both on and off the playing field,” said Joanna Comfort, the director of communications for the Nationals.
Although bringing baseball east of the Anacostia River is a major goal, the facility was inspired by Harlem RBI, a nonprofit organization that uses the game to promote healthy living and education to inner-city children. According to their 2012 report, 96 percent of participants since 2005 have graduated high school, with 93 percent gaining college acceptance. While the Nationals will manage the complex, they are looking for an executive director to oversee the year-long program.
With summer approaching, both facilities need support from the community. At FDIA one of the best ways to do this is by volunteering on and off the ice or field. “If you have certain skills, then we have a job,” said Enos. Both organizations also take donations online and through special events, while FDIA will also accept gently used ice-sport equipment. Residents can also support each organization by registering their children for programs.
Fort Dupont Ice Arena is located at 3779 Ely Place SE, Washington DC 20019. Office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. while the arena is closed for maintenance. Visit fdia.org or call 202-584-5007 for more information. The Nationals Youth Baseball Academy will be located at 3675 Ely Place SE, Washington DC 20019. Visit nationals.com/dream or call 202-640-7124 for more information.