KENWOOD, Okla. – Cherokee Nation leaders joined members of the Kenwood community Friday afternoon to break ground at the site of the future Cherokee Nation Woody Hair Community Center, an estimated $10 million project that will provide state-of-the-art space for community events, an elder nutrition program, wellness space, a new Head Start facility, school sporting events and more.

When complete in 2023, the Cherokee Nation Woody Hair Community Center will be a combined 33,000 square feet.

“After First Lady January and I visited the park in Kenwood and saw the need, we knew we needed to engage the community and make improvements. As a result, the Woody Hair Community Center is the result of months’ worth of input from Cherokee citizens throughout the community who wanted a modern facility for community gatherings, sporting activities, elder nutrition programs, education, and health and wellness,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This multi-faceted project has the potential to leave a lasting impact on the Kenwood community for generations. We can invest in projects that improve education, health and wellness, and breathe new life into communities that are home to our culture and traditions. Here in Kenwood, the work that is planned on this new community center can be a model for what we can do across the great Cherokee Nation Reservation.”

The multi-purpose community facility will house a 1,300-square-foot wellness space and locker rooms that will be capable of doubling as safe areas during severe weather. Also included will be 11,000 square feet for a multi-purpose gymnasium for high school sports and community basketball tournaments. The gym can also seat over 400 people for banquet-style events.

“When we took a look at how best to create a state-of-the-art facility that can serve many purposes over the course of its lifespan, our discussion with community members always came back to ensuring our Cherokee youth and elders have a place to gather and fellowship here in Kenwood for years to come,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Along with the indoor space that will be constructed, we’re adding new softball fields, an outdoor basketball court, a walking and running path, and space for Cherokee traditional games like stickball and marbles. This is an exciting project and I can’t wait to come back and celebrate the grand opening next year.”

The new facility will also include two Head Start classrooms totaling more than 2,800 square feet and capable of welcoming up to 40 students. The Head Start will have an outdoor and covered play area, storm-safe areas, a commercial kitchen and offices for staff.

“I am excited to see Cherokee Nation officially kick off the construction process for our new Kenwood community center. I know the OneFire Community Organization and families here in Kenwood will find plenty of opportunities to enjoy this space,” said Council of the Cherokee Nation Speaker Mike Shambaugh. “It’s a great day in District 9 and for everyone who lives near Kenwood.”

The Cherokee Nation Woody Hair Community Center is named in honor of the late Woody Hair, a fluent Cherokee speaker from the Kenwood community.

“It’s great seeing the community come back out. Since COVID hit, everybody has kind of gone away, so with this new community center -- the gym, the Head Start, everything that’s going into one facility -- I think it’ll start pulling people back into their community, and that’s what we need: community involvement,” said Bo Six, President of the OneFire Community Organization in Kenwood. “This is a family community and it’s really nice.”

Following Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony, community members enjoyed an afternoon hog fry.

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