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Oklahoma City to open first recreation center in over 40 years

A rendering of the Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center
Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation
Press Release
A rendering of the Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center

The Willa D. Johnson Recreation Center will debut to the public on Saturday in a grand opening event, making it the 10th recreation center in the city.

The $17.5 million facility is located at 909 Frederick Douglass Ave. in Northeast Oklahoma City, and features a gym, lounge, two multipurpose rooms, a teaching kitchen and an indoor swimming pool.

On Saturday, a grand opening ceremony will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event includes a live DJ, community vendors, tours and free food.

Funding for the center was part of the 10-year, $967 million bond package called Better Streets, Safer City, which voters approved in 2017. The issue invests in parks, streets, police and fire facilities and other community needs.

The center is named for former Ward 7 Councilmember Johnson, who was the first Black woman to serve on Oklahoma City Council. Johnson represented her ward for 14 years, and later served as an Oklahoma County Commissioner for 11 years. She passed away in 2022 at the age of 83.

Ward 7 Councilmember Nikki Nice called the opening a “momentous” occasion for Oklahoma City residents in a press release.

“Having known former Councilwoman Johnson, I know she was proud to know how this center will benefit and improve the lives of all Oklahoma City residents, especially our young people within northeast Oklahoma City,” Nice wrote.

A mural will be displayed at the center, titled “Freedom to Dream.” It features Johnson surrounded by children, encouraging young people today to follow their dreams. Three artists worked to create the mural alongside Douglass High School students, John’s alma mater.

The building will be fully opened to the public on July 17. Adult memberships range from $15-$25 per month and youth membership total $10-$15 a month.

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Peggy Dodd was an intern at KOSU during the summer of 2023.
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