Since early childhood, Emmanuel Todd, 12, and dozens of his pals have dreamed of having a decent place to play. While waiting for their dream to come true, the youths -- who come from a college of the Adams-Morgan, Cardozo, LeDroit Park and Shaw inner city neighborhoods -- get as much enjoyment as they can playing basketball, ping-pong and pool in small, poorly equipped damp, dismal and usually roach- and rat-infested basements called the No. 13 and No. 10 Metropolitan Police Boys' and Girls' Clubs.
Roaches sometimes fall on their heads as they enter the No. 13 club at 251 V St. NW. The center is notorious for its lack of sports equipment, and what little it does have is badly worn or broken. At the No. 10 club, in Calvary United Methodist Church, 14th Street and Columbia Road NW, the pipes often leak, and Todd and his basketball teammates -- who recently won the police clubs' Western Division championship -- spend half their practice time mopping the gymnasium floor.
Despite the drawbacks, the youths have continued to play there -- they have no other place to go.
But soon Todd and his pals will be able to forget about the roaches, put away the mops and spend more time having fun. Their dream is about to become a reality. The No. 10 and No. 13 clubs will soon be replaced by a 14,000-square-foot, $1.2 million rec center at 14th and Clifton streets NW.
At Monday's groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility, Todd -- captain of his club's basketball team -- said he and his pals "can hardly wait."
The construction project -- scheduled to be completed in January -- is jointly financed by the city government and the nonprofit boys' and girls' club program, which is supported by donations from the public and local busiesses. Program staff have started a fund drive to rise the final $250,000 for the facility.
It is the first police athletic club built in D.C. in 13 years. Because of its central, inner-city location, it is expected to have a membership of 6,000 and attract youths from throughout the District.
The role that the new facility could possibly play in reducing the high rate of drug-related crime in the area was the chief concern of the city politicians and public officials who spoke at the Monday's ground-breaking ceremony.
"Police reports have proven that crime is lower where there is a boys' and girls' club," says Jerry Steele, executive vice president of the clubs. "Instead of hanging out in the street and being influenced by criminal activity, they come into the club and get interested in more constructive things. It's obvious that the 14th Street area really needs a place where young people can do positive things."
Steele adds, "At the new facility, we'll have equipment and programs that most of the other clubs don't have. We'll have an electronics training program, weight lifting, a full-regulation gym with seating, cooking facilities, game rooms, a library, meeting rooms, arts-and-crafts room and remedial reading classes. We won't have a swimming pool because it's too expensive."
John Thompson, head basketball coach at Georgetown University who spoke at the groundbreaking, said, "Many times, kids in the inner-city reach a point of frustration, excitement or depression and need to go somewhere to release energy and get some common-sense advice. That's why a club is such a vital part of a community." CAPTION: Picture, Tom Jones Police Clubs' founder, and club member Emmanuel Todd break ground for the new $1.2 million recreation center. By Pam Nixon for The Washington Post