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More Room To Play Ball

Chantilly gets seven new indoor basketball courts.

If all goes well, by this time next year, local residents will be able to play on seven new indoor basketball courts in Chantilly. The Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) on Tuesday approved the special permit required for construction of commercial athletic courts.

The Symonds Indoor Basketball Facility will be on 4.1 acres at 3801 Glorus Road and 3730 Stonecroft Blvd., north of Route 50, across from the county police firearms range/driving facility. It'll be rented on a first-come, first-served basis for youth and adults for both basketball and volleyball.

"As you already know, getting court space for any team in this area [is tough]," said attorney Keith Martin, representing the applicant, Curtis Symonds of McLean, Tuesday morning, before the BZA. "You find yourself scheduling games well into the night."

"And with the explosion of women's athletics, the demand for court time has doubled," he continued. "In addition, basketball is becoming a year-'round sport, so we're real excited about bringing such a first-class facility to this area."

Martin explained that Symonds has worked with AAU basketball for many years, and both his children have played on AAU travel teams. During travels with them, he came across indoor-basketball facilities called Run & Shoot and decided to bring the concept here.

He'll create it within a 62,507-square-foot building on the west side of Stonecroft and the north side of Murdock Road. Martin said Symonds chose the Chantilly site because of the availability of the land and because "Fairfax County is really getting a reputation for good, youth-basketball programs."

Besides the basketball courts, there'll also be bleachers at one end, plus locker and shower areas for men and women, a pro shop and even an "enrichment center" — a computer room where young athletes may do their homework between games.

It'll be open Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Symonds anticipates a peak volume of some 400 patrons at any one time.

REGARDING THE EARLY opening times, Martin said, "We're finding many people want to get a workout in before work." He said many also enjoy playing pickup games at lunch. "And now that summer is here, there'll be clinics for youth sports that'll probably start in the morning."

Michael Sprague of the Ox Hill subdivision of Chantilly Green lives near Glorus Road also spoke at the BZA public hearing. He said he has "no objection to what's going on," provided it's done with the proper perspective. "It's probably a needed facility," he said. "But Murdock should be improved to their most western boundary."

He also wondered how fire and rescue personnel would access the rear of the building, since no access is planned to that part from the parking lot. County staff coordinator Mavis Stanfield replied that the fire department plans to review it again, anyway. Added Martin: "The fire marshal doesn't require rear access to buildings under 50 feet in height, and this is a 40-foot-high building."

Since Murdock Road is really little more than a gravel path, Symonds has proffered to build a full width of Murdock from Stonecroft west to the entrance to the sports facility. Beyond that point, he has the option to either build a half section of road across the rest of his property's frontage or escrow the money to do so at a later time.

Sprague said he'd prefer the Murdock improvements, as well as sidewalk construction, all done up front, rather than seeing the money escrowed for future use. And BZA member Jim Hart asked Stanfield if the applicant would have to construct sidewalk on Murdock from Stonecroft to the facility's entrance, unless an offsite easement is granted.

She said yes, noting that if the sidewalk doesn't fit into the space in the right-of-way, Symonds would have to obtain an easement for it. However, if he's unable to get the easement, then he'll also have to escrow the money so the sidewalk may be built at a later date.

"WHY NOT MAKE them do their half of the road now, instead of a half section?" Hart asked Stanfield. "It depends on the development of the adjacent lots," she answered. "But at least the money would already be in place."

Hart said it might be better to get "half the road in now, rather than waiting 'til later," but Martin said Symonds would either construct its half section or escrow the funds. "It's typical where the rest of [an area's] development [isn't yet in place]," explained Martin. "We'll do the half-section now, if the board wants us to, but it might be confusing to people to only see half a road and sidewalk completed."

Hart then made a recommendation to approved the special permit. "I think this facility will be a benefit to the community and will provide basketball and volleyball courts for both youth and adult use," he said. Noting how pleased he was with how the building's exterior will look — masonry and stucco, instead of an all-metal building — he called it "a step up from what it could be" in the industrially zoned spot where it will be constructed.

He noted that the county's Comprehensive Plan calls for an industrial use there, with an option for indoor recreation. However, he said, "It's extremely noisy — right below Dulles Airport's flight path — so it would have been hard to find [another] use" for this site.

"This will provide more recreational opportunity than any other facility in this area," added Hart. "And it will complement the nearby [Westfield] high school and [future] rec center, as well."

The BZA then unanimously approved Symonds' special-permit application. Martin said Symonds hopes to start construction, the first quarter of 2004, finishing in about six months.