July 31, 2002
Youth sports coaches teach players to persevere through the final minutes of long practices and hard-fought games. After 15 years of waiting, the same lesson has been learned by the Fairfax County Park Authority, Hutchison Elementary School and the families of Herndon's 2,000 or so youth soccer players.
That's how long those groups have waited for county-funded improvements on the cluster of patchy, pockmarked soccer fields along Parcher Avenue.
The Hutchison project has been a contender on the county's bond referendum funding list since 1988. That year, soccer was a decidedly low priority, but by 1998, after a decade of steady increases in the number of players — and increased demand for places to play — the project elbowed its way toward the top of the list.
"To say this has been a long time coming is an understatement," said Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn, (R-Dranesville).
Herndon Mayor Rick Thoesen said that projects like this one cannot happen unless school, town and county officials can persist and improvise. "We teach kids perseverance in sports, and it's certainly the case here with the Hutchison fields," he said.
THE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT will transform the site into a flat, green playing surface by the fall of 2003. For the project's developers, that means setting up a $43,000 irrigation system for four soccer fields and begin work on an "interim" field later.
John Lehman, the project's supervisor within the Fairfax County Parks Authority, said the plans also include two baseball fields — one adult-sized and one youth-sized diamond — for the use of Hutchison students during the day and for recreation youth leagues during afternoons and weekends.
The project's total anticipated project costs are $866,491 when utility start-up fees are included, but the bulk of funding will go to the construction contract. The contract, for $680,165, was awarded last month by the Park Authority to KT Enterprises of Chantilly. KT Enterprises has already begun bulldozing the fields.
The ground breaking was met with cheers from Herndon's soccer community. Jody Rametta, administrator of Herndon Youth Soccer and a mother of one player, said the lack of playing fields in the town has been creating more headaches for town recreational leagues and high school teams when, for example, spring soccer teams must compete with baseball teams for the same fields. Rametta said in her eight years with the board, the number of players has increased by about 10 percent every year.
THE NEW FIELDS at Hutchison are among a handful of soccer fields funded by the 1998 bond. According to Lynn Tadlock, director of the county Park Authority Planning and Development Division, the bond's funds are part of a larger effort by the county to meet the county's growing soccer needs. Through those funds, Tadlock said the county has planned 25 separate improvements for soccer fields including improved irrigation and lights, and has included the construction of 12 new fields.
"We know we have a big need out there and we're trying to work with it," she said. "There are a few other things in the plans right now over and above that but that's what's funded."