The City of Kettering Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department (PRCA) has a rich history serving the community dating back to 1954, when the city council established the first Parks and Recreation Board. Upon the formation of the Parks and Recreation Board, the first Parks and Recreation Master Plan was developed in 1964 to guide city leaders in its growth to better serve the community. In 1965, the Parks and Recreation Board conducted a survey of residents to justify the need to create a Parks and Recreation Department. From those results, the City of Kettering PRCA department was born. In 1966, Bill Richwine was selected the first City of Kettering PRCA Director. Since then PRCA, has been recognized both nationally and locally for many of its parks, facilities, programs and initiatives through professional excellence in the field of parks and recreation. The National Recreation and Parks Association has selected the City of Kettering PRCA as a National Gold Medal Agency three times (1977, 1994, and 2014). In 1996, the department also became the first parks and recreation department in the state of Ohio to become nationally accredited. The department has since been re-accredited five times: 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016 and 2021.
PRCA through the decades
Our big moment! After the department was established in 1966, we focused on major facility development based on the results of our very first citizen survey, as well as the expansion of several of our parks.
The department established long-range goals during its second decade through a Community Facilities Plan. We also saw further park expansion and the establishment of more recreation facilities like the Kettering Recreation Complex in 1973 and the Kettering Ice Arena in 1974. We continued to involve our citizens through surveys, the new Senior Citizen Advisory Board and won our first NRPA gold medal in 1977! Not bad for an eleven-year-old.
During the 80’s, PRCA continued on its totally rad trajectory. The Kettering Parks Foundation was established in 1982, and we won an OPRA award for developing the Delco Park BMX track that same year. In 1983, the city leased Rosewood Arts Centre from the Kettering City School District and hired its first Cultural Arts Superintendent, Connie Campbell, the following year. In 1986, we added the historic Beavertown Cemetery to our Parks Division and also moved our Fourth of July celebration to Delco Park, where it became the Go Fourth! event we still know and love. As the decade closed, so did the Stroop Road Pool – to make way for a new water park at the KRC!
In the 1990’s, PRCA was all that. We started the decade by opening the Charles I. Lathrem Senior Adult Center, part of the Kettering Recreation Complex, in 1990. A year later, Fraze Pavilion for the Performing Arts opened, with the great Marvin Hamlisch doing the honors! The 4,300 seat venue remains one of the top amphitheaters in the U.S. and Kettering’s home for Summer’s Best Music. Our 1990s PRCA team didn’t stop there – in 1996, we became the first parks and recreation agency in the state of Ohio to become nationally accredited through the National Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies, a status we have maintained for over two decades.
As the world entered a new millennium, Kettering remained the (avocado) toast of the parks and recreation world. Facilities and programs receiving top honors during this decade included: Kettering Ice Arena (Professional Skater’s Association’s Excellence on Ice, 2000-2013), PRCA’s second CAPRA accreditation, CIL Center (OPRA award, 2003) and the Art on the Commons festival (Sunshine Artist Magazine, 2004). In 2002, Kettering played host to the very first International Stone Carving Exposition in the United States, Kettering Rocks. The sculptures remain part of the city’s robust public art collection. In 2003, the City developed the Land Lab Program in cooperation with Kettering City Schools – the program was then held at the Southdale Nature Center and Pondview Park. 2005 was a year of new beginnings – we saw the Kettering Fitness and Wellness Center open, as well as the Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Skate Plaza.
Toward the end of the decade, in November 2008, the bond levy was passed. This bond levy funded renovations of all neighborhood parks, the redesign of Adventure Reef (formerly Water Raves Water Park) and paved the way for a new fitness wing and additional group exercise studios at the Kettering Recreation Complex.
Although this was a decade of uncertainty in the wake of the Great Recession, PRCA was able to continue providing top-notch programs and facilities to our Kettering community. Projects funded by the bond levy came to fruition in 2011, most notably:
Park renovations, including construction of the JF Kennedy Park Splash Pad
State of the art roofing system on the Kettering Recreation Complex main pool
The Grand Reopening of Adventure Reef Water Park
Kettering’s public art collection also grew significantly during the 2010’s. Architect Mary Roggero designed Kettering’s bus shelters, and the Art in Public Places Committee unveiled a number of new pieces, including two collaborations between artists and community members.
In 2013, not only were extensive renovations and accessibility improvements completed on Pondview Park, but the former Southdale Nature Center became the brand-new Habitat Environmental Education Center.
The decade is off to a rough start, but we remain committed to serving the community through the excellent programs and facilities PRCA has become known for throughout our fifty-five year history.