On Tuesday, August 11, DC Parks and Recreation (DPR) Deputy Director John Stokes, accompanied by Department of General Services (DGS) Project Manager Mark Bacus, and Under Armour representative Jeff Reslin, met with ANC6D residents, local leaders, and community organizations to discuss future capital and program planning for Randall Recreation Center.

“[Our residents] don’t want to have a beautiful building with no programs, but [they] also don’t want programs in an outdated building,” said Stacy Cloyd, ANC6d-2d representative. Improvements to the exterior ground facilities have been extensive, but the Southwest community has long sought full reactivation of the center itself—a goal that remains elusive. Current improvements to the doors and windows of the building, thanks to a contribution of $200,000 from the Bernstein Companies, soon may be followed by the loss of programming at the site.

The meeting failed to resolve the community’s concerns. After a brief introduction by DPR staff member Brent Sisco, there was a presentation intended to cover four topics: (1) completion of the Bernstein Companies’ installation of new windows and doors, (2) the final plan and timeline for completion of renovations to a portion of Randall’s baseball field, (3) use of $250,000 for interior improvements to Randall, and (4) community input on ideas for future programs. Unfortunately, the hour-and-a-half-long meeting only afforded coverage and discussion around the first three items. A second meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, August 26 at 6 p.m. at Randall.

The first portion of the meeting acknowledged the Bernstein Companies’ work to remove old screens from the windows at Randall, most of which have been removed. New exterior doors are expected to be installed soon. This work should be completed by the end of September.

The second portion of the meeting addressed the pending renovations to the baseball field, which are set to be completed by November 1, 2015. The field renovations are a result of a partnership between DPR, Under Armour, The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, and the Washington Nationals. Jeff Reslin of Under Armour presented a list of FAQs and displayed a picture of the renovated field. He answered several questions about the orientation and design of the field, location of the score board, fencing, and the viability of its intended multi-purpose use. The final design will renovate the west side baseball field area (closest to the townhouses), re-orient the field to move home plate to the southwest corner, and install an artificial turf multi-purpose field for use for little league baseball, soccer, or flag football. The east side of the field (closest to South Capitol Street) will remain unchanged as a softball field. Some residents lamented the loss of a greater portion of the softball field than originally expected to accommodate the renovations, and expressed concern over the safety of artificial turf, particularly if adult games must combine use of grass and artificial turf in order to extend the size of the playing area for adult games.

The remainder of the meeting focused on the $250,000 for improvements and DPR’s attempt to clarify the amount of money in its budget and the purpose of the funds for Randall. At the beginning of the slide presentation, CBCC Coordinator Felicia Couts asked if these were the capital improvement funds that CBCC successfully advocated for in the soccer stadium legislation, or some other source of funding. DPR staff could not confirm. However, they shared that the current plan is to address safety issues at the building, and to ensure the building is ADA compliant—from bathrooms to the kitchen, and from ramped entryways to water fountains. DPR acknowledged that $250,000 is not sufficient to make all upgrades and capital improvements to the building. DPR Deputy Director John Stokes shared that at least $1 to $1.5 million is needed to completely renovate Randall, but DPR’s budget request for those funds in FY 2016 was denied. He does not expect DPR will receive this money until FY 2017.

The answer to the question of the source and intent of the current funding remained unclear after it was again raised by Councilman Charles Allen’s community liaison, Naomi Mitchell. This is important, because the categorization of the funds dictates how they may be used. Mr. Stokes committed for the August 26 follow-up meeting to reviewing the legislation and budget and to provide clear information on the funding. He also promised to focus on the fourth and most important agenda item—gathering community input for future programs and enrichment activities at Randall.

By: Felicia Couts

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