One thing you don't see a lot of city kids growing up playing is hockey. Or baseball. Or anything that requires more than a small patch of pavement and a small handfull of other kids to play.
But in Southeast D.C., the Fort Dupont Ice Arena's kids programs are showing there's a demand for more choices in the inner city. The ice arena is slated for expansion, and zoning for the project, with the Washington Nationals' baseball academy, is up before the city's zoning board on Thursday.
Since the nonprofit Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena inherited the building in 1996, its Kids on Ice program has grown from a dozen to more than 10,000 kids per year, according to the nonprofit's chairman.
"It was originally open for hockey and some public skating but it didn’t serve the community as a whole," said Willem Polack. "The [National] Park Service was planning on shutting it down and maybe reopening it as basketball courts."
Today, the basketball courts near the ice arena are barely used — if at all, Polack said.
The ice arena hopes to double in size and expand its free services to more D.C. and Prince George's County kids. It's a $15 million to $20 million venture, but unlike the baseball youth academy, the ice arena doesn't have the city's help in doing so. The nonprofit is gearing up to start a fundraising campaign.
But Polack said he sees the youth academy, which is slated to open next to the ice arena, as a great summertime complement to what Kids on Ice offers.
"Wards 7 and 8 are some of the toughest for obesity problems and so we're right in the heart of it," he said. "So [to have] a sports complex in the heart of Anacostia — what more could you want?"