Photo by Dsade.
If you follow GM on Twitter, you’ll know that he’s a bit of a soccer fan. And while not that many people get up early on the weekends like GM just to watch the English Premier League, a whole bunch of kids in DC (including plenty of Georgetown kids) participate in the wonderful Stoddert Soccer league.
Unfortunately, this year the program was dealt a blow from the city. As the Chairman of Stoddert Soccer, Nick Keenan, wrote the groups participants:
The fields Stoddert Soccer players have used for decades – were being systematically shut out on weekday afternoons. It must be a mistake, we thought, but when we contacted the Department of Parks and Recreation we were told that, no, it’s not a mistake. It’s policy.
As the Post’s Mike DeBonis wrote yesterday: “Keenan blames private schools — particularly the Lab School of Washington and the Edmund Burke School — who use city fields for their own sports teams. In his Web missive, he said ‘political considerations’ were at play.”
Georgetown has already seen an example of a private school getting a special deal for exclusive use of a public field. In that case, the posh Maret school convinced the Fenty administration to let the school turn the Jellef fields into a modern artificial turf field in exchange for the school getting exclusive use of the field during most of the prime hours for ten years. Other schools have bitten off rather large chunks of time for public fields without having contributed what Maret did. For instance, despite having plenty of fields of its own, Sidwell Friends (tuition $34,000) has exclusive use of the Hearst fields weekdays until 5 pm.
In the end, the Jellef deal was not as harmful to an organization like Stoddert because the fields included lights. (Of course that still means kids not lucky enough to attend Maret are stuck waiting until dinnertime to actually start practice). But DPR made several decisions this year to sharply limit Stoddert Soccer’s access to fields this year, which has harmed the program. For instance, it decided to simply block Stoddert from reserving any field before 6pm on weekdays this fall. Since it already gets dark by 6pm, that seriously limits what fields could be used. After some pressure from Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells, DPR backed off its initial position, but the league is still hurting for field time.
If you’re interested in helping out Stoddert, Tommy Wells is holding a public hearing tomorrow to address this and other issues relating to the use of city parks. It’s too late to sign up to give your own testimony, but you can submit written testimony to Tawanna Shuford at Tshuford@dccouncil.us (and while you’re at it: write to Jack Evans (email@example.com), Tommy Wells (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mary Cheh (email@example.com)). Let them know that a non-profit organization open to all without admissions tests or a ridiculous tuition shouldn’t have to sit on the sidelines until dark before its kids can play ball.