Dear PoPville – Looking for gyms or other high ceiling rooms to fly model airplanes

Float Documentary Trailer from Float Pictures on Vimeo.

Dear PoPville,

I have a request involving an esoteric hobby – extremely lightweight rubber band powered indoor model airplanes. Specifically, I am looking for gymnasiums or other high ceiling rooms that could be accessed or rented for low cost 4-6 times a year. To give you a better idea of the hobby, above is the trailer to a documentary some friends are currently making.

There are number of participants in the area (DC tends to have a good supply of retired military aviation/NASA engineers) and we are looking for spots to practice. We’ve made requests to DCPR but, for understandable reasons, they tend to favor using the gyms for athletic activities (as opposed to old nerds flying balsa and mylar airplanes powered by rubber bands).

If folks are interested in seeing these planes fly, we hold two public events at the Building Museum, the next one will be on April 7. We do model airplane building lessons for the cub scouts as part of the Building Museum program, and would be pleased to work with schools/church groups etc for some time in their gyms.

Any suggestions for low cost sites we could gain access to on weekends would be greatly appreciated.

The two limiting factors are that the HVAC needs to be off as normal heat/ac blowers are too strong for these delicate models, and we ideally need 3-5 hours as it is a slow moving activity.

16 Comment

  • Have you contacted the National Guard about the Armory? Biggest indoor facility I know of in town (except Verizon, I suppose). I know they rent it out for sports leagues. Might be overkill (read:expensive) and I don’t know if they would turn off the HVAC. But maybe some of your retired mil buddies have connections or are reservists themselves?

  • Small world, I know the documentary makers too.

  • Not sure how much horizontal space you need, but there are lots of empty old church buildings on Saturdays. You could probably get a dozen prospects with a quick drive up 16th Street.

  • Uline Arena near Union Station? It’s only used as parking during the week and abandoned other than thta, but I know there was at least one experimental theater production that used it in the recent past (there is a PoP thread on it even that I’m too lazy to look up). FWIW I don’t even think the space is climate controlled, so HVAC shouldn’t be an issue. Probably your best bet inside the Beltway, but I have no idea who you would contact about it.

    • Uline is very interesting – I did not know that is was empty on weekends. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks!

  • How about on the Mall?

  • Talk to the events folks at the National Building Museum. It’s the perfect space for what you are looking for. Renting the museum for an after hours event is usually pretty expensive, but if it wasn’t rented some night, and you didn’t need catering, HVAC, or anything but a balcony and a quiet, large space, you might be in luck.

  • This seems like the sort of thing you _might_ be able to get the National Building Museum to buy into…

    • Thanks. As noted, we already have two events at the National Building Museum a year – which is the max they can do. We collect donations and teach a model building class to the Cub Scouts as part of the events.

  • Very cool. We used to build these back in middle school!

  • Contact DCPS and get in touch with the Realty Office. You can rent out a gym, but your cheapest option may be to find a sympathetic principal and offer to do something for their kids. Contact me at Jefferson Academy if a basketball court size gym with tall ceilings and recessed lights fits your needs and you’d be willing to work with some middle schoolers.

  • All Souls Unitarian at 16th and Harvard has Pierce Hall, which doesn’t have HVAC. No idea about rental cost, but fwiw…

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