‘It Won’t Work’ Says Jelleff’s Stowers About New Plan

“It won’t work!” announced Bob Stowers, the longtime coach-director of the Jelleff Recreation Center to a panel of D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation officials on Wednesday evening, Nov. 8, in a town meeting at the Georgetown Library about the “changes” to the plans for reconstruction of the center that had been initially approved early in the year.

It was about three-quarters through the scheduled-at-last summer-fall town meeting and so far the announced changes had been met with stony silence.

Gone was the planned move of the swimming pool (postponed perhaps to the future) that would have allowed an expansion of the 1950s Jelleff building 3265 S St. NW. Gone was the much touted second full basketball court that was the target goal of the surprise expanded budget in 2020, and a third floor with community meeting rooms, a kitchen and possible computer room and/or hobby rooms. 

Of some concern to many was the seemingly smaller space allotted to the Boys and Girls Club that has been a mainstay of the center for more than 50 years, including the always packed after-school game room. It now seemed to be half the size of the current one.

Still in place, according to the panel that showed a couple of floor plan sketches, was a new much more welcoming and secure entrance lobby, some 60 more parking places due to the new placement of the playground, and rooms for other community activities, including a gym and an auxiliary gym.

But Stowers deemed the latter wouldn’t work for basketball. He also expressed concern, as in the past, that the square footage construction cost estimated for Jelleff at about $1,000 a square foot was higher than any other rec center construction in D.C. that he had been researching.

Of course, underlying any of the complaints was gratitude that the District Council in 2020 had raised the $7 million initial Jelleff improvement budget — to implant up-to-date ADA requirements for handicapped users — to $25 million (about $3 million more was added “for other things,” presumably  from unused pandemic-generated reserves.)

But now, after two years of surveys, questionnaires, town hall meetings and resolutions from dozens of community and school groups, the changes that had been publicized incorporating multi-users’ ideas for needed space, suddenly were back on the table. The budget was the same,  but suddenly too small for the proposed changes of last year. New priorities seemed to have taken place.

The silent crowd on Wednesday heard of variously repeated reminders from DPR Chief of External Affairs Tommie Jones that “the Jelleff Center belonged to the city, not Georgetown.” Therefore, plans for its reconstruction had to be planned for everyone in D.C. to use, not just Georgetowners.

“Jelleff is not just about basketball,” Jones said to Stowers, who has been managing the scheduling of games and practices for more than 60 basketball teams from all across D.C. on the current Jelleff basketball court — that can be divided into two cross courts just barely big enough for younger children to practice on safely, according to Stowers.

“The newly planned cross courts are too small and the new full court although longer, is too narrow,” Stower told the crowd. “It just won’t work for cross over workouts.”

“I also am concerned about safety in the seemingly now more public access to the space that has always been dedicated to the Boys and Girls Club,” one enthusiastic mother, whose children attended the club all through their school years, told The Georgetowner.

“Some of the new rules are very recent and will require some adjustments,” said Michael McDonald, Boys and Girls Club vice president for Impact and Inspection for Greater Washington.

“We are committed to this (planning) process and are looking to move aggressively to make sure we get the concept that will accommodate the community,” Jones said.

The next meeting will be held when a plan is ready for contracting.



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