For decades, a Georgetown athletic facility and youth center, complete with community swimming pool, has been almost invisible. The complex is set back in a quiet corner off Wisconsin Avenue and S Street, with lots of parking and an AstroTurf playing field that can host up to four soccer, baseball or football games simultaneously. Known variously as Jelleff Recreation Center and the Boys and Girls Club, it’s been around since the 1950s.
But few Georgetowners know about it. There are no noticeable signs marking it as a public facility.
The large pool, with dozens of lounge chairs and a dedicated lap lane, is open free to D.C. residents from 11 a.m. until 6 or 8 p.m. every day except Wednesday. It actually sits in the shell of an older, larger pool that once offered programs for adult and senior swimmers. Now, the Department of Parks and Recreation runs a few swimming programs for children, but the pool is only open 60 days a year. This year, the pool will close Sunday, Aug. 19.
Immediately adjacent to the pool is a two-story brick building built by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington in 1953. A large gym with a single court for basketball and other sports, boys’ lockers and a sports office fill the first floor, accessible by an
indoor staircase. The basement houses colorfully painted rooms used by the Boys and Girls Club for ping-pong, billiards, other games and arts-and-crafts projects, a library/study hall, a computer room, a kitchen (where fruit and spinach smoothies were being prepared when The Georgetowner visited), a girls’ locker room, a lounge area, a trophy room and offices.
The fields were built and surfaced by the Maret School under a 10-year contract that ends in 2020. Maret, now located in Cleveland Park, and the International and British Schools in Georgetown have contracted to use the fields most weekdays. On summer evenings and weekends, the schedule is largely taken up by various soccer and baseball leagues.
Almost year-round, the gym’s schedule is fully packed, with 30-to-45-minute time slots reserved for more than 90 basketball leagues, school teams and formal and informal youth and adult teams. School teams use the gym until about 3:30 p.m. on weekdays; other teams schedule it until 9:30 p.m. or so, and all day on weekends. During the summer camp period, about 350 second-to-12th-grade schoolchildren use the courts every day.
The logistics of moving kids, team leaders, parents and grandparents off and on the one court — and through the 1950s-style dressing rooms and gym — are a constant challenge. How is it done?
“Through great experience,” said Bob Stowers, club director for more than 25
years. Stowers has been connected with the club all his life. “My father and uncles were members of the youth club when it was located at the corner of 31st and M Street in
the ’40s,” he told The Georgetowner. Stowers pointed to a photo of himself suited up with his basketball team at the new gym in the early 1960s. It was one of many photos in a wall-sized case that also displayed trophies and plaques honoring club founders and supporters.
Now the Jelleff Center’s future is about to become more public. “DPR has budgeted $7 million to remodel and upgrade the building and add some client services that will fit within that budget,” Peter Nohrden, DPR’s designated project manager, told some 100 attendees at a preliminary information meeting on July 23 at the Georgetown Public Library.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for the community,” said Kishan Putta, a Jelleff Center neighbor and activist. “Two basketball courts are obviously needed, as well as a multi-use athletic center. None of Georgetown’s parks have indoor athletic centers. Only Jelleff.”
Stowers would go further. “I think the old building should be demolished and a new facility built to meet the needs of athletes, seniors and youth groups,” he told The
Georgetowner. “Seven million dollars is a tremendous amount of money to spend just on arenovation. It would be more efficient just to rebuild it anew.”
At least four more public meetings will be scheduled to get community input. Nohrden expects the plans to be finalized by the summer of 2019. Construction would take about six to nine months, with the new Jelleff Center opening in the fall or spring of 2020.
JELLEFF RECREATION CENTER
3265 S ST. NW
WASHINGTON, DC 20007
MONDAY TO FRIDAY: NOON TO 8 P.M.
SATURDAY: 10 A.M. TO 6 P.M.
MONDAY, TUESDAY, THURSDAY AND FRIDAY: 11 A.M. TO 8 P.M.
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY: 11 A.M. TO 6 P.M.