Disston Rec to get $850,000 playground

Soda tax money is being used for an $850,000 renovation to the playground at Disston Recreation Center in Tacony.

Digging in: Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilman Bobby Henon and students from Keystone Academy Charter School break ground on an $850,000 renovation project at Disston Recreation Center. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

On an unseasonably warm first day of fall, city officials and students from Keystone Academy Charter School gathered at Disston Recreation Center in Tacony to celebrate an $850,000 playground project.

A groundbreaking ceremony, attended by Mayor Jim Kenney, Sixth District Councilman Bobby Henon and others, included praise for the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, known as the soda tax. 

The tax, still controversial three years after it was approved, funds the city’s Rebuild program, which is overseeing the renovations at Disston, Longshore Avenue and Glenloch Street.

“None of this work would be possible without the hundreds of millions of dollars Rebuild is investing in community spaces across our city,” Kenney said Sept. 23. “These investments are why we fought hard to pass the beverage tax in 2016.” 

Henon, whom Kenney called the “biggest crusader” for the soda tax, heaped praise on the mayor and the Rebuild initiative.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, a Mayfair native, speaks Monday, Sept. 23, about a playground renovation at Disston Recreation Center. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

“Mayor, thank you so much for being the best mayor and the mayor with the biggest vision for our parks and rec system in the entire country and in the history of the city of Philadelphia,” Henon said.

A federal indictment that resulted in charges against Henon in January claims that the councilman and electricians’ union boss John Dougherty pushed the tax as a way to get back at the Teamsters for a perceived slight. Henon has pleaded not guilty in the case. 

The work at Disston began earlier this month and is expected to be finished by spring. Officials said the project will include new playground equipment, outdoor adult fitness area, landscaping improvements and changes to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Kenney said he hopes building renovations at Disston will be incorporated into the next round of Rebuild projects. The building, constructed in 1931, is one of the oldest rec centers in the city.

Students at Keystone Academy Charter School, which is across the street, utilize Disston for recess, gym class and other activities, said Claudia Lyles, the school’s chief executive officer.

“This really is an asset to Tacony, but it’s especially an asset to us,” Lyles said. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.