Ellington Field Renovation Plans Include New Amenities 

Plans to upgrade the neighborhood Ellington track and field park and add community amenities under an approved $3.5 million city parks budget, were presented by DC Department of Parks and Recreation officials at a virtual lively and civil meeting on Nov. 15 with neighbors in Burleith, the Palisades, Georgetown, Georgetown University athletes and some district athletic clubs.     

The new design includes a regulation though not full size soccer field within a refigured all-weather track at the site that encompasses a large block on the 1700th block of  38th St, NW and the connecting sections of Reservoir Rd., 39th St and S Sts. NW.The two old field houses will be reconstructed to include rest rooms, club meeting rooms and lockable storage rooms for club athletic equipment plus handicap accessible entrances and safer windows. Besides re-leveling and stabilizing some of the ground around the track, the renovation will include 16 city-required bike racks and temporary parking spaces divided between the main East and the West entrances.  

Various amenities such as workable, modernized drinking fountains and new viewer seating included in former plans have been expanded to include a court for pickle ball – the fastest growing family and community sport in America it is said. Also under consideration are a beach volleyball court and areas for small children’s activities such as possibly a sand box and sports equipment. A parking area for a school bus has been included in the latest design. Even a seemingly highly desired dog park has been sized into the plans and will be included if the community completes the D.C. required Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) application in time. 

The meeting focused on various options for high tech night lighting from four proposed poles. A report was made about a field trip taken by stakeholders to view Tacoma’s playing field’s latest lighting technology that feature high focus, minimally “polluting” lights designed precisely for neighborhood fields.  

Numerous community comments during the presentation focused on concerns about usage schedules that prioritized the three local schools (Duke Ellington, Hardy Middle and School Without Walls) and parking and traffic challenges brought about by school transportation and parental drop offs and pickups. Some suggested lights should have a definitive shut off time of around 7 p.m. Others were concerned about noise enforcement. 

For decades Ellington Field, as it is popularly known, has been a treasured neighborhood athletic hangout. It is also busy as a practice and sometimes playing field for Georgetown University – which installed an all-weather track – and some private schools for special large annual meet functions. It was rarely used by Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts located three blocks away; so, in 2019, the DC Department of Public Schools in a sudden and unannounced executive/administrative move, transferred the jurisdiction of the field’s management and maintenance to the DPR. 

This legal executive decision caused some long contentious even accusatory confrontations between neighbors and the Bowser administration. There was fear of private contract deals between DPR and wealthy distant private schools to renovate Ellington Field at their expense and have decades long exclusive use at prime times, as had been done at Jelleff field on S St. NW. Now it has been made clear that the usage of the field would remain open to all with a priority to Georgetown public schools and neighbors. 

“We expect and demand constant transparency and communication,” said ANC Commissioner Kishan Putta, who lives nearby and uses the field daily with his family.  

The archaeological, geotechnical and arborist’s reports along with a traffic study and concept design package are available on the DPR website for review and comment. “The design/builder will be on board winter of 2022 and construction could be completed by late 2022, according to project director Peter Nohrden. “But nothing will be done until community input is exhausted,” the DPR Director of Community Outreach Tommie Jones told The Georgetowner. 




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