Housing Complex

After Clearing NCPC Hurdle, Next Up for Fort Dupont Rec Facilities is Money

Fort Dupont Ice Arena from above.

Fort Dupont Ice Arena from above.

The Youth Baseball Academy long promised for Fort Dupont Park will likely take one more step towards reality tomorrow, as the National Capital Planning Commission considers approval of a recommendation to transfer 15 acres of the park from the National Parks Service to the District government.

The project looked like a done deal early last year, as the District and NPS negotiated over the terms of the transfer, which would also allow for the doubling in size of the Fort Dupont Ice Arena. But environmental groups objected to what the D.C. Audubon Society president called "giving away land to DC in the name of development and gentrification." In April, the Native Plant Societies of Maryland and Virginia filed a complaint in U.S. District court, alleging that NPS hadn't adequately considered the impact of the construction on adjacent forestland.

The Washington Times wrote a story pitting an alliance of bureaucrats and plant-worshipers against the good souls who just want to help poor kids play baseball and go ice skating. Willem Polak, the chairman of the Friends of Fort Dupont, told the paper he thought the NPS might even have invited the filing in order to stall the project, which the non-profits denied.

Since then, though they admit that construction of the baseball academy "will result in short-term and long-term negligible to minor adverse impacts to soils from both construction and recreational activities on the project area," NPS and the District have drawn up a covenant designed to mitigate development effects. The new facilities are contained within the existing footprint of the recreation area, and one configuration that would have destroyed an acre of sensitive forest land was rejected.

That, however, isn't the end of the story. While the Baseball Academy is underwritten by the Washington Nationals, the Fort Dupont Ice Arena will have to raise about $20 million to pay for construction, Polak tells Housing Complex–which he says is not a bad rate for serving 20,000 kids a year. They'll look to companies like Reebok or the Baltimore-based UnderArmour to foot the bill.

"It's something we could see out of the ground in two years," Polak says. "We have a huge task ahead of us."

Also on the NCPC agenda tomorrow: The lovely Canal Park redesign, and a presentation by Frank Gehry on options for the Eisenhower Memorial.

  • bonnie

    The idea of having someone else foot the bill to build a new and expanded Fort Dupont Ice Arena sounds great BUT the question I would have is how much of the time is the Ice Arena actually booked? While serving the needs of 20,000 youth sounds laudable, how many are served on the one sheet now and is there not extra time available that is going unused? Why does it take $20 Million to build a new ice sheet there? Ask the owners of the Dale City Ice Rink how much rebuilding their rink is costing - I dare say it is a lot less than the $20 Million that people want to spend here and now. Something sounds amiss to me; does it to anyone else?
    Bonnie
    Bonnie

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