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Big Step Forward for Fall Completion of New Adams Morgan Soccer Field Welcomed

Accompanying images can be viewed in the June, 2013 issue PDF

By Anthony L. Harvey

In a lively hour and a half session in the central meeting room at the Marie-Reed Learning Center, more than a dozen citizen activists heard from and questioned staff of the District’s Department of General Services (DGS) who presented final plans for the repair and renovation of the seating area, fencing, and related features surrounding the new state-of-the art soccer field being gifted, as we previously reported, to the Marie-Reed School and Adams Morgan community by the United Arab Emirates and its English Premier League championship soccer team Manchester City. (See, “Marie-Reed School Students, Adams Morgan Youth, DC Soccer Enthusiasts to Benefit from Major Gift,” April 2013;

Among those representing the community were the chair of the Adams Morgan ANC and the ANC commissioner for the single member district in which Marie-Reed and its large athletic playing field at Florida Avenue and Champlain Street lies, the Presidents of the Kalorama Citizens (KCA) and Reed-Cooke Neighborhood (RCNA) associations, and several members of the adjacent Square 150 community group.

The most contentious issue swirled around that of the repair and renovation of the seating area located on the sloping side of the playing field between the 18th Street tennis courts and the flat playing surface of the new soccer field, known as the amphitheater; it occupied much of the discussion.

Currently an unattractive, rat-infested and dilapidated set of descending arcs of wooden railroad ties for seats, the amphitheater was first proposed for renovation with replacement wooden ties. The community responded with a proposal for a new amphitheater constructed with pre-cast, textured concrete blocks that mimic composite stone rather than wooden ties to be placed in a garden-like setting that had informally been suggested by neighborhood resident Jeffrey Catts, who also serves as the landscape architect for Washington Parks and People.

The first of the two DGS poured concrete proposals was endorsed by the overwhelming majority of attendees, including the ANC Chair.

The question of real versus artificial grass was also raised, as well as that of the cost and timing of the construction of the structural underpinning for the renovation of the currently unusable amphitheater. DGS staff and their design team counter-proposed with, it was agreed, an attractive, poured concrete approach and artificial turf grass which would be both less costly and be more straight-forward in installation and maintenance, thereby avoiding, for example, with the need for tucking or tufting under the turf grass surface which the concrete blocks would require to offset a tripping edge — a concept that bedeviled understanding for many of the meeting participants. The turf grass surface being planned for the seats would be the same as that being planned by Manchester City for the $500,000 soccer field surface and would be irrigated and drained in the same fashion.

Plans for new benches, the protection of existing trees, and provisions for new trees and shrubs and a new storage shed for soccer field equipment were also outlined by DGS program manager Shilpa Khatri and community outreach specialist Jackie Stanley. The question of the small area at California and 18th Streets that was meant to be a community garden was left unresolved as was that of the replacement fencing for this large area encompassing both the field and its surrounding amphitheater, storage shed, and access points.

DGS, which has cobbled together a budget of $850,000 for this un-planned project primarily from the capital budgets of the public school and parks and recreation departments, is unsure of whether or not the $850,000 will cover the new fencing costs, or whether after final cost estimates are prepared and bids are received from several of the District’s already certified on-call contractors additional funds will have to be found in the agency capital budgets. The type of fencing for the project was briefly discussed; the community’s desire is not for replacement chain link fencing but rather for the ornamental, security style fencing installed on the Ontario Street side of the Marie-Reed campus.

DGS had hoped to coordinate the of funding for this project with the ambitious community benefits package negotiated by the Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association with the developers of the planned unit development (PUD) known as the Adams Morgan Historic Hotel. However, DGS staff reported, the developers have yet to even secure financing for the project and progress on the hotel project has been suspended; the developers will thus be unable to participate, DGS asserted, with funding for any of the 17 items they contracted with Reed-Cooke to provide. Nine or 10 of these specified items dealt with fencing, gates, and benches for the overall Marie-Reed campus site as well as that of replacing the amphitheater.

DGS anticipates a tight schedule — a June 24th target date was mentioned — for the eventual design/build contract for this project, with a close coordination with Manchester City in its construction of the new soccer field, slated to be completed in time for the fall DC public school soccer schedule.