According to Mark Meana, football games at Vienna’s Waters Field can attract thousands of fans. He said the field’s central location helps draw the large crowds, which sometimes rival those at Madison High School.
“I don’t believe in a home field advantage for youth teams, but this field here comes pretty damn close,” said Meana, commissioner of the Vienna Youth Inc. (VYI) football program.
But despite its popularity, the current complex has some flaws. The lighting system is 30 years old and the wooden crossbars holding the field lights have started to rot. This has thrown off the direction of the lights and poses some problems with safety and aesthetics.
“Right now the poles are all at different heights,” Meana said. “It looks like someone hacked them off.”
BY APRIL OF NEXT YEAR, though, the lighting problem should be resolved. A group of five Vienna sports officials have arranged a proposal to fix the lights at Waters and Caffi Fields, and both the Fairfax County Athletic Council and the Vienna Town Council have approved funding for the project. The field, officially on Vienna Elementary property, is owned by the county and is jointly maintained by the county and by the town of Vienna. So Meana and his group of Vienna sports officials decided to ask both those entities for funding on the project. Meana said former Hunter Mill District Supervisor Bob Dix helped the group of sports officials negotiate for funding.
“The hard part was the bureaucracy,” Meana said, “Sitting around the table and saying, ‘We’re going to do this, this and this,’ and convincing [the town of Vienna and Fairfax County] to accept the [payment] percentages.”
The entire project is scheduled to cost $262,000. Fairfax County will pay 65 percent of the cost, Vienna will pay 25 percent and the organizations that use the fields will pay 10 percent. The field users are VYI Football, Vienna Youth Soccer, the Vienna Girls Softball League, the Greater Vienna Babe Ruth League and the Men’s Senior Baseball League.
Meana said the new lights will be state of the art. The light poles will all be a standard height of 80 feet. And while the current poles are wooden, the new poles will be made of steel and will be set in concrete.
Sometimes, when the current light poles sway, Meana said dark spots appear on the sports fields. The new lights will be arranged so light is distributed evenly and efficiently over the fields. The lights will be low glare, and will stay concentrated on the playing fields.
"There is not lot of dispersal of lights, so that really helps in a neighborhood setting," said Pat Frankewitz, director of the Fairfax County Department of Parks and Recreation.
RIGHT NOW there are 24 light poles at the complex, but the new lights will only require 23 poles. Even so, one currently unlit softball field will be lit by the new lights.
“It’s just using the right lights and pointing them in the right direction,” said Meana.
The lights will also be computer-controlled, and will automatically shut off for the night. Right now the lights are manually operated, and are sometimes left on late into the night.
Installation of the new lights is not scheduled until December 2002, at the end of the upcoming football season. The period between December and April is a “dead time,” Meana said, when no organized sports teams use the fields. So the lights are scheduled to be installed by April 2003, but they could come sooner. A similar lighting project at the Cunningham Park Elementary fields was planned for the same timetable, and those lights were installed by February.
Between now and December, though, the town of Vienna will make temporary adjustments to keep the lights from falling.
"There are a couple of crossarms that need to be repaired or replaced to get through the next season," said Richard Black, director of Vienna's Parks and Recreation Department. "We've got one crossarm already cracked, and we can't take a chance."
IN LATE 2001, two inspectors, one from Fairfax County Public Schools and one contracted by the town, both agreed the current light poles are unsafe. In November of 2001, Meana and other local sports officials started planning the project.
“What’s exciting is that you had five entities get together and totally agree on all aspects of the project,” Meana said. “There were no agendas other than to get an approved complex.”
Steven Briglia, Vienna Town Councilmember, praised Meana’s organizational efforts at Monday’s town council meeting.
“This is a model of how you can get things done efficiently,” Briglia said. “I know you coached team sports in the past and this was a team effort, multi-jurisdictional.”
"This lighting project been remarkably smooth, with all different organizations from variety of sports committed to finding the funds, and the town and county committed as well," she said.