Jack Coogan, 26, loves his weekly softball games on the grassy fields of West Potomac Park. He loves the chance to run after working all day as an accountant. He loves the camaraderie of his close-knit team, made up of fellow alumni of Xavier University.
The president’s decision to change the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration — by relocating a fireworks display, adding a second fireworks show and addressing the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — means a lengthy shutdown of the popular ballfields on Ohio Drive SW.
Starting Saturday — five days ahead of the holiday — the ballfields will be off-limits. Leagues won’t have access to the West Potomac fields again until July 7 — three days after the fireworks.
The recently announced change is sending leagues scrambling to reschedule games for as many as 600 softball and Ultimate Frisbee players displaced from eight softball fields and nine multiuse fields.
For Capital Alumni Network, Coogan’s league, the change means figuring out what to do for about 400 players who were set to play Saturday. Add DC Fray, one of the biggest organizers of intramural sports in the District, and that means several hundred more players displaced.
National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said in an email that users were informed of blackout dates in April and May when permits for the fields were issued. According to Litterst, the days before and after July 4 are for setup and teardown of the fireworks show.
Coogan said he did not want to talk politics but did not appreciate Trump’s decision to rearrange the Fourth of July celebration.
“It’s going against the grain of a city that has people with those long-standing traditions,” Coogan said. “I think it’s pretty shortsighted of the administration to just close a significant portion of a grassy area because he wants to have a parade and to speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.”
CAN, a volunteer organization that arranges alumni club sports, was notified June 13 by the National Park Service that it would not be able to use the West Potomac Park fields in the period designated before and after the holiday, said Ashley Philips, the group’s sports chair.
The organization was not told when it received permits that the fields would be unavailable that week. CAN is scrambling to find field space somewhere else, she said.
DC Fray has the same issue. Founder and chief executive Robert Kinsler said that the change has been disruptive but that his organization is used to having to adjust.
“We’ll reschedule the games to the end of the season,” Kinsler said. “We’re old hands to this. We’re used to playing around the Mall; if it’s not this it’s a protest. . . . We just roll with the punches, we’ll adjust. That’s our job as the organizers.”
Carlos Delgado, 32, plays in one of DC Fray’s leagues. His team is Papita, Maní, Tostón — Chips, Peanuts, Fried Plantains. That’s what they usually eat at ballparks.
Delgado said he was not aware of next week’s closing but probably will go straight home after work at the Inter-American Development Bank on Monday instead of heading to West Potomac Park.
“We always get the disclaimer that the permits can be revoked or removed or whatnot for different events,” Kinsler said. “That’s a standing thing that we always know may happen.”
The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, which also schedules games on the West Potomac Park fields, “will make adjustments to the softball schedule to reschedule missed games,” director Delano Hunter said in an email.
The Washington Area Frisbee Club is another organization dealing with the changes.
“For our organization, it doesn’t displace us too much,” said Tim Smith, the group’s director. “The way we run our programming and the number of programs we have, that field is just one of many that we use throughout the course of the summer.”
Smith said he had backup fields available for almost every case, including fields in Silver Spring, Md., Alexandria, Va., and Southeast Washington.
“Because we have a history of players and teams bouncing around different field locations, I don’t expect it to be a big shock,” Smith said.
Margaret Holmes was standing at one of the playing fields Monday evening as a light drizzle fell. She has been playing softball with her team, Sudden Destruction, for at least 10 years and was unaware of the closures that begin Saturday.
Holmes said that because of rain, her team has played only once this season. So, for Sudden Destruction, next week’s game is another that will not be.