Improved accessibility, amenities coming to Wolf Trap National Park in new year

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts won’t unveil the artists booked for its upcoming summer season for a few more weeks, likely in late January or early February. But regardless of who’s on stage, Filene Center visitors can expect at least one improvement in 2024: an updated concessions area.

Construction on the new Meadow Commons building began in September after the demolition of the existing concessions stand, which had served patrons since the Filene Center opened in 1971.

Almost twice the size of its two-story predecessor, the three-story Meadow Commons is on track for completion in late spring, according to the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the nonprofit that helps fund and program the park. That would be in time for the new season, which typically kicks off around Memorial Day.

“This new building will create just a wonderful new opportunity for patrons,” Beth Brummel, the foundation’s chief operating officer, said. “It’s probably one of the more visible [improvements] because it’s so connected to the experience of going to the concerts as well…So, we’re just really excited about it.”

Featuring a larger, modernized kitchen that can support a bigger menu as well as expanded restrooms, including family and ADA-accessible stalls, Meadow Commons constitutes the second phase of renovations slated for Wolf Trap under a park master plan updated in 2022.

The first phase replaced temporary vinyl tents near the Ovations restaurant with permanent pavilions. Finished in late July 2021, that project coincided with the park’s 50th anniversary season and aimed to encourage more year-round usage and visitation.

Meadow Commons, a $15 million project funded by a capital campaign that ultimately drew $75 million from donors over two years, was designed to improve the patron experience and make the Filene Center more accessible, Brummel says.

The new building will include elevators that finally connect the 7,000-seat amphitheater’s upper and lower levels, which can currently only be reached by stairs. The park’s lower levels will also be easier to access from the ADA parking and the picnic pavilions via a new, fully accessible path.

“The restrooms, the food service and the elevator in particular is a game changer to allow people with any kind of mobility issues to be able to access all of the different levels of the Filene Center without assistance,” Wolf Trap National Park Superintendent Ken Bigley said, adding that the National Park Service is “so thankful for the foundation’s support in making this happen.”

The accessibility improvements build off an earlier reconfiguration of the Filene Center’s front orchestra, which now have aisles so those seats could be reached from the back, Brummel noted. The amphitheater was also outfitted with screens in 2018 to give patrons on the lawn a better view of the stage.

In addition to the enhanced accessibility and expanded restroom and concessions space, Meadow Commons will bring modernized electrical, plumbing and stormwater management capabilities and a rooftop deck that will offer a panoramic view of the surrounding meadow and woods.

“I think it’s one of the flagship views of the park,” Bigley said. “So, there’s a section of this new building that will allow people to sit and enjoy a meal or enjoy a drink and look out on this beautiful view of the meadow.”

The upgrades at Wolf Trap won’t stop with the new concession area. Other changes proposed by the master plan include a pedestrian tunnel to replace the existing at-grade crossing at Main Circle and Barn roads, a new arrival hub, a 65-space accessible parking lot and a reconfigured circle in front of the Filene Center’s main gate to improve vehicle circulation.

Brummel says the Wolf Trap Foundation and National Park Service haven’t established a list of priorities or schedule for those additional projects yet. For now, they’re just looking forward to finishing Meadow Commons and seeing how it’s received by visitors when the Filene Center reopens.

“We’re excited [to make] the action, the process of visiting Wolf Trap to be just a little bit easier, whether it’s food service or accessibility or restrooms,” Bigley said. “It is already a very special place that we’re very proud of, and this will just take it to the next level.”

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