Before “The Goonies” plays in Stead Park tonight, the crowd snacking on popcorn and coated in bug spray will get a preview of what the future holds for the sparse field beneath their blankets.

Members of the volunteer group Friends of Stead Park have been circulating at the annual summer outdoor movie series to explain to the public how $1.6 million in city funds is about to transform the relatively unknown acre of green space tucked away between P and Q streets and 16th and 17th streets NW.

The money, approved by a D.C. Council committee in May after the volunteer group lobbied for the project, is part of the budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins in October. Renovations are expected to begin soon after, so by next year, visitors will be able to jog around a turf athletic field on a running track. There will be a splash fountain for kids to scamper in, benches and trees for folks looking to lounge, and a stage for community programming.

It’ll be a big change for a place many people compare to a prison yard, with its high fence and barren landscaping, says Friends of Stead Park board member Kishan Putta.

Parents and kids in the Dupont neighborhood already flock to the park, which was established 60 years ago by a private bequest from Robert Stead for “the perpetual use of the children of Washington.” (D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation administers the park, with financial support from a private trust established by Stead.) But families tend to stick to the playground, while the majority of the space often sits empty.

A permitted athletic field isn’t good for much more than kickball games and rugby matches. The park’s future incarnation will serve many more people, Putta says. Not only does the new design accommodate a wider array of activities, it also includes better connections to the 17th Street NW commercial strip.

At the screening of “Meet the Parents” in July, many attendees said it was their first time in the field. It was only because of the movie that Michael Saleh, 30, finally walked into Stead, despite having once lived on the corner. He says he needs a reason to visit a park. “I’m not the type that sits and ponders,” the Logan Circle resident said.

The makeover may give him, and other Washingtonians, plenty to think about. Putta says Stead Park can serve as a model for how to make the most of every bit of green in the city.

Coming in 2014

Stead Park will be updated next year with a running track around the athletic field, benches and trees, a kids’ splash fountain, and a stage — which could be used for concerts, story hours and fitness classes. Find out about the makeover at today’s screening of “The Goonies,” which starts at 8:30 p.m. Learn more at