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Marie Reed School Students, Adams Morgan Youth, DC Soccer Enthusiasts to Benefit from Major Gift

Accompanying images can be viewed in the April 2013 issue PDF

By Anthony L. Harvey

On April 2nd during a bright, sunny spring afternoon in Adams Morgan, a large crowd gathered on the dilapidated athletic playing field at the bottom of the Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center campus at Florida Avenue and 18th Street to celebrate the gifting by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Manchester City Football Club to the District of Columbia of a new, state-of-the-art, all-weather artificial turf grass field as a replacement for the present abomination of an existing, poorly maintained largely dirt and ruined grass field.

This magnificent gift comes hand in hand with a three-year commitment by the Manchester City Football Club and its lead sponsor, Etihad Airways, of annual, ten-week training programs at the new field for Marie Reed students and community soccer players, and the commitment of the DC Public Schools in partnership with the DC Department of General Services  to renovate and refurbish the area surrounding the field with new seating, fencing, lighting, and modern safety features.

The $500,000 facility and its surrounding embellishments will be constructed between now and late summer with plans for the field’s formal opening set for August — in time for the start of the 2013-‘14 school year.

Speaking at the event, UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, a Georgetown University graduate and no stranger to Adams Morgan, the Ambassador observed, “I can’t imagine a better place for this new field, right here in the heart of Washington, DC. Marie Reed Elementary School and this park are cornerstones of Adams Morgan and we are excited to construct a field that will give kids more access to soccer and benefit the entire community.”

In accepting the gift, Mayor Gray commended the UAE and Manchester City’s generosity: “The District of Columbia is honored,” said Gray, “to be chosen by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates and the Manchester City Football Club to receive such a wonderful gift for the students of Marie Reed Elementary and the community at large.” Continuing, Gray noted that “the renovation to the soccer field and after-school soccer program will enhance the quality of life for our community and brings an international presence to our vision of ‘One City.’”

Manchester City Football Club officials were on hand to elaborate on the club’s “City Soccer in the Community” program and its installation in five other U.S. cities, including new fields last year at Haas Park in Chicago,  the Hank Kline Boys & Girls Club in Miami, and the Lexington Academy in New York City’s Harlem section; another recent new field constructed in 2011 was for the Boys & Girls Club of East Los Angeles.

In front of the speaker’s stand for the groundbreaking was raised, slanted platform featuring a large sample patch of the artificial, woven turf grass; it will be used for the all-weather surface of the new soccer field and was an immediate hit with the Marie Reed students in attendance. These same students wasted no time by practicing their soccer moves with adult trainers while awaiting the start of the afternoon’s celebration.

Also in attendance were Adams Morgan ANC commissioners, Kalorama Citizen Association and Reed Cook Neighborhood Association members, Square 150 activists, community business owners, and parents and teachers of Marie Reed students — many of whom had been present at the previous week’s ANC special meeting and community forum held by the ANC to hear the soccer field proposal from the Manchester City Football Club. A large and enthusiastic audience attended that special meeting, and expressed overwhelming support for the proposal as well as a collective and hearty “thank you” for the UAE and Manchester City Club gifts.

The ANC’s resolution of support, which passed unanimously, included a further resolved provision “that ANC 1C calls on the District of Columbia Public Schools, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Department of General Services to work closely with the community to ensure that the perimeter of the field is renovated in a manner befitting the new field (and in particular that the railroad tie bleacher system is replaced with an improved bleacher system); and priority of use will be given first to the school children during the school day, then to local youth for free soccer instruction, and thereafter to the local community.”

Anthony deGuzman, Chief Operating Officer for the DC Public School System, announced at the ANC session that he would be the city’s coordinating officer among those city agencies for this important project and reiterated that statement to this reporter at the groundbreaking ceremony the following week.

Jake Lloyd, Communications Coordinator for the local soccer organization DC Scores, in attendance at the April 2nd event, recollected to The InTowner, that his well-known organization began its DC soccer program in 1994 on the Marie Reed athletic playing field. DC Scores and the Adams Morgan Youth Leadership Academy were both named in the ANC resolution as local organizations that City Soccer in the Community should work with “to ensure that the programming for the field connects effectively with [Adams Morgan] local youth.”

Concluding remarks were provided by Marie Reed school principal Eugene Pinkard: “This will be a game-changer for our students and our school community. The soccer field will transform our curriculum and make a valuable space into a world-class facility.”