Coronavirus: Kettering won’t have ‘traditional summer’ fun choices

Some of the most popular events and destinations in a city that is known for its summertime recreation won’t be available this year as Kettering has cancelled, closed or condensed many of them.

Public health and budget concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the city that normally spends about 20 percent of its budget on parks, recreation and cultural arts to make significant changes.

The Fraze Pavilion — which hosts dozens of concerts, events and free mass gathering activities at the next door Lincoln Park Commons — is shuttered. The annual Go Fourth! celebration at Delco Park is off. And the outdoor water park at the Kettering Recreation Complex will not open.

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“It won’t be the traditional summer that we’re used to, but there are going to be some summer activities,” Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman.

Playgrounds at the city’s parks opened Wednesday. And a number of sites and activities – including the KRC’s indoor pool June 22 – will open between now and July 6, the start of the youth baseball and adult softball seasons, Schwieterman said.

But the Charles Lathrem Senior Center will not be available, nor will any of the annual food and drink gatherings – such as the Taco Fiesta, Festival of the Vine, Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest and Bacon Fest - at Lincoln Park Commons.

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The Lincoln Park activities and Fraze concerts are the “main focus” for Bob King and his wife, Jeannette, city residents for nearly 30 years.

“That’s pretty big to me,” said King, who can hear the concerts from his yard. “To be (not) able to go out in public with people I know and see and run into….that’s very disappointing.”

The Kings don’t use the KRC as much as they did now that they have two grown sons, but the outdoor water park was always a place to cool off.

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“For young parents, it’s a place to go for the afternoon for four hours,” he said. “That’s going to hurt them. It really is.”

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department accounts for $11.7 million, slightly more than one-fifth of Kettering’s 2020 budget, records show. By comparison, core services such as police and fire consume about 54% of budgeted funds, Schwieterman said.

“We at the city of Kettering realized many, many years ago that recreation was vital part to our community as a suburb,” he said. “And we treat it almost as a core service as it relates to the quality of life….So it’s always been a significant amount of our focus and resource allocation. And it continues to be.”

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But this year’s COVID-19 outbreak forced changes and business shutdowns across the state. The impact is expected to hit Kettering’s budget more than some communities.

The city’s income tax collections account for 58% of Kettering’s 2020 revenues, records show. Ohio cities are projecting 10% to 20% losses in income tax collections due the coronavirus and Kettering has already cut jobs.

What would normally be about 500 summertime jobs is down to about 240 this year, Schwieterman said.

In April, the city announced about 240 part-time employees would either be furloughed or laid off.

More than 90% of the affected part-time workers were in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department.

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