Is there a future for an all-city sports facility here? Tuesday night City Council agreed to commit staff resources to working with a citizen group interested in such a project.
The concept has been discussed by individuals in the community including Mayor William D. Euille for a number of years. Most recently, Euille mentioned the idea during the 1999 discussion about the development at Potomac Yard. On Tuesday night, it was Councilman Rob Krupicka who presented the idea to City Council.
“It has been 33 years since T. C. Williams students were able to participate in what most people in this country consider a rite of passage, the Friday Night High School Football Game,” Krupicka said. “Since that time, we have seen a steady rise in the range of sports played by Alexandrians: from adult and youth soccer leagues to successful women’s lacrosse and field hockey programs to baseball, softball and many other sports. Alexandria is a city where sports make up a significant portion of our leisure activity.
“We believe the time has come to formally evaluate the opportunity for an all city sports facility in Alexandria. This facility should have the ability to accommodate everything from Friday Night Football games and women’s lacrosse championships to soccer, track and other sports competitions,” he said.
EUILLE SPOKE in support of the concept. “I have felt for a long time that the city needs such a facility,” he said. “We have been discussing this concept informally for a long time and now a diverse group of citizens have decided to take it a step further. That group met with the city manager and it is time to devote some staff resources to looking into the matter further.
“This would be a public/private partnership and we would look at significant funding from the private sector. We are not looking at anything on the scale of Camden Yard or RFK Stadium, but something that could meet the needs of Alexandria,” Euille said.
The group, Alexandrians for an All City Sports Facility, is divided into subcommittees, with former City Council member Claire Eberwein and former School Board member Linwood Campbell, serving as co-chairs.
“My involvement quite naturally evolves from a deep interest in young people, in T.C. Williams, and in increasing recreational opportunities for all Alexandrians,” Eberwein said. “It is a given that good planning involves maximizing the use of scarce public land resources.
"With the use of the new technology for artificial turf and night lighting, such a field would have little need for down time after storms and the extended play time during the evening opens new opportunities for sports such as lacrosse and field hockey, in addition to traditional sports such as football and soccer.
"We hope to include an outdoor track as well, which will benefit our runners and joggers. We have put together a phenomenal group of people who truly care about this city and its future and I am very excited about working with them to get this project off the ground,” Eberwein said.
THE GROUP WILL look at programming, funding, available sites in the city and design. A. Melvin Miller, a former member of the School Board and the chairman of the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board, will work with former Councilman David Speck on funding. “We need such a facility in the city for many reasons,” Miller said. “It will expand our ability to meet the recreational needs of young people and adults alike. There are many cities that have such sports facilities and they work very well. I am looking forward to moving ahead with this project.”
Councilman Paul Smedberg wanted to make sure that the city’s Parks and Recreation Department was involved. “I just want to make sure that we are including them in this discussion,” he said.
Sandra Whitmore, the director of that department said she was supportive. “It’s a very exciting prospect. Having a lighted field will certainly enhance the usability of that field and will allow us to have night football. What better way to bring a community together than in support of a high school team,” she said.
Euille emphasized that the group would look at property that is already owned by the city rather than the purchase of additional land. “We will explore our options,” Whitmore said. “We will look at Four Mile Run, at Potomac Yard/Simpson and at Hensley on Eisenhower Avenue. In addition, we will look at property the city might acquire with funds that are going to be available as mitigation from the Woodrow Wilson bridge project.”
Councilman Andrew Macdonald asked if the new facility would replace the stadium at T. C. Williams. “Will this mean we don’t need a stadium at T. C.,” he asked.
Euille responded, saying, “While this will certainly be used for night football by T. C. Williams, we will also use it for many other sporting and community events,” he said.
The group will begin work in earnest in January and will report back to Council with a recommendation some time next year.