Tommy Cureton, the Town of Warrenton’s new director of parks and recreation, believes the most important part of his job is providing opportunity. From his still-unpacked office at the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility, he said last week, “How incredible is it to come here every day? We get to provide opportunities for people to improve their health, to get away from stressors. We have the honor of providing that.”
Cureton is especially glad to be able to provide those opportunities to his neighbors. A resident of Bealeton, he said, “Throughout my career, I’ve never lived where I served. I’m finally going to be able to provide opportunities in the community where I live.”
Cureton and his family are already fans of the facilities and services offered by Warrenton’s Parks and Rec Department. His daughter plays soccer on Athey Sports Complex fields and both his children have taken swim lessons at the WARF. As a hands-on dad, he has coached basketball with the Warrenton Youth Sports League.
Cureton will be responsible for planning, organizing, directing, evaluating and maintaining the town’s parks and recreation department, including the WARF, playing fields and all other parks within the town limits. He will also be responsible for all programs, services and staff for the town's parks and recreation department. “We’re in the process of building our team now,” he said. It’s a team that has been diminished during the COVID pandemic.
He said that he believes his department “has a lot of potential. I am still reviewing what we’ve done in the past. I’d like to see more programs here at the WARF, in our parks. But I’m still in the review process. I haven’t had a chance to talk with town residents yet about what they’d like to see.”
COVID-19, said Cureton, “has severely reduced our operational footprint, but we are ready to start opening for daily admissions and group exercise.” After being closed since March, the WARF opened to members July 15, by appointment and with increased space between patrons. The leisure pool has been closed except for exercising in the “water walking” section. The lap pool is open for 45-minute intervals, by appointment. The hot tub is closed.
As swim lessons get ready to begin again, Cureton said, “They will look different.” Parents will be required to be in the pool with their children. Instructors will be on the deck,” teaching from a distance.
Masks must be worn while guests are moving throughout the facility, but not while exercising.
Cares Act funding paid for a rescue dummy for lifeguards to practice with, instead of using each other to practice on. It’s one less touch point, Cureton said. “We are confident in our protocols that it’s a safe place.”
Group fitness classes may begin soon, but with a reduced capacity. “I was walking outside the other day and passed two ladies walking with kettle bells. I asked them if they had gone to our group classes and they said they couldn’t wait for them to open up again.”
Depending on weather, Cureton said he may consider offering some classes outside, at Rady Park, in a field behind the WARF or even in the parking lot.
A lifetime of sports and fitness
Cureton, 41, said that he has always been a sports and fitness enthusiast. Growing up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he played football, basketball, baseball and dabbled in track and field sports. Now, he said, he and his family do a lot of hiking and camping and he also enjoys running.
He started his career with the City of Manassas Park as an athletics specialist. He then spent two years working for Loudoun County Parks, Recreation, and Community Services as a youth sports specialist for camps and clinics.
Following his time with Loudoun County, Cureton spent eight years at Quantico for the United States Marine Corps; the last four years he was a section head for fitness, aquatics and sports, developing policy and procedures to guide the section's operations and monitoring program standards across 18 Marine Corps installations.
Most recently, Cureton served as division manager of recreation centers for Loudoun County Parks, Recreation and Community Services. He led a large team of full-time and part-time staff across two recreation centers and one indoor aquatic facility.
Town Manager Brandie Schaeffer said, “Mr. Cureton demonstrated throughout the interview process that he was not only well qualified for the position but deeply knowledgeable and integrated into the community. As a local resident and avid user of our parks, he is familiar with the WARF, which will greatly benefit the Town of Warrenton as he steps into the role.”
Cureton holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education/sport management with a minor in business, and a Master of Science in recreation and facility administration from the University of Tennessee.
He is a certified parks and recreation professional through the National Recreation and Parks Association, is a certified program planner through Learning Resources Network and is a member of both the NRPA and Virginia Recreation and Parks Society.
As Cureton walked the halls of the WARF last week, he stopped to answer a member’s question. He smiled and said, “… And if there is anything else at all that we can do for you, please just ask.”
When asked to look ahead and predict what he’d want his Warrenton legacy to be, Cureton said he’d like to offer more programs and get more people involved in sports and fitness. “It’s all about opportunity.”
Then he grinned and said, “But right now, I’m focusing on what’s right in front of me.”
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