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Park Authority and MYS Celebrate Field Opening

Loan Covers Cost of Artificial Turf, For Now

The celebratory opening on Sept. 30 of Field Two at Lewinsville Park, the controversial soccer field with the unpretentious name, featured an ornately decorated cake and squeezable “stress balls," both decorated with McLean Youth Soccer's logo.

But beneath all the joy, relief, and anticipation over the first artificial turf field at a Fairfax County Park, was public curiosity: Who paid for it?

McLean Youth Soccer Chairman Ted Kinghorn wasn’t saying, but he did acknowledge the presence of two bankers from 1st Service Bank in McLean: Ernie Tressler, the bank’s president and CEO, and Debbie Steinberger, senior vice president.

Later, Tressler acknowledged that 1st Service made a term loan to MYS for seven years to finance the artificial turf at the field.

“We were pleased with the opportunity to support such a significant community project, which benefits the youth of the Greater McLean area,” Tressler said.

He could not reveal the amount of the loan, he said. “It is confidential information between the borrower and the bank.” LandTek, the manufacturer of the artificial turf, estimates it exceeded $500,000.

Asked what collateral MYS supplied to secure the loan, Tressler responded: “Actually, none. We can’t go down and rip up the field. We based our loan underwriting on the cash flow of MYS and their ability to repay the loan,” he said.

Asked about the BZA’s decision to overturn the Fairfax County zoning administrator, who ruled that Marymount’s use of Field Two is “a public use” by right, and the Board of Supervisors’ decision to sue the BZA, Tressler said “I am not aware of that. I am not familiar with it myself.”

“MYS HAS TAKEN ON INDEBTEDNESS with their members’ support,” Kinghorn said at the celebration. “But for [the bank] and their support, we would not have this field.

“Using MYS funds to pay for the field will mean that MYS is not able to put its resources into other fields,” he said.

He acknowledged the Case Foundation and Steve Case and his wife Jean, who were present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“This field by its very nature will always be safer than [Field Three],” Kinghorn. “When it rains, they won’t ever have to put this sign up,” he said, holding up a sign that read “Field closed.”

“Stu Mendelsohn has done a fantastic job – and not just on this field,” Kinghorn said. “Look at downtown McLean.”

Field Two is the artificial turf field that was just installed at Lewinsville Park on Chain Bridge Road under a controversial agreement between MYS and Marymount University.

On Sept. 16 the Board of Zoning Appeals, deciding an appeal from the West Lewinsville Heights Citizens Association, ruled that the Fairfax County Park Authority had “abrogated” its duty when it did not seek a special exception to the county zoning ordinance to permit Marymount, which is located in Arlington County, to use the field for home games for its varsity soccer and lacrosse teams.

On Sept. 29, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to appeal the BZA’s unanimous decision to the Circuit Court in Fairfax County. The County attorney’s office will represent the supervisors, while the BZA will hire its own attorney, with the county picking up the legal bills.

The BZA is autonomous of politics because its members are appointed by the Circuit Court, rather than elected officials.

In the meantime, while the issue is decided the soccer and lacrosse teams at Marymount University apparently will not use the field for practices and home games, as had been planned.

BUT THE COMPLEX legal issues did nothing to dim enthusiasm at the park last week, where a ribbon was cut on Field Two under a crisp late fall sky on Sept. 30.

There was cake, which had both the MYS and FCPA logos ornately reproduced in the icing, and drinks.

Fred Mittelman, MYS’s liaison with a national soccer cup competition and a former candidate for Dranesville District Supervisor, cautioned one young player to pick up a blob of white icing that dropped on the artificial surface of the field.

“It’s not biodegradable,” Mittelman said, commenting privately that “the issue over this field is who is going to maintain it.”

Steve Case, a McLean resident and officer at AOL, and his wife, Jean, were present. Kinghorn proudly showed the sample of the artificial turf to Dranesville Planning Commissioner Joan DuBois. She is running for the open seat for Dranesville Supervisor on Nov. 4, hoping to succeed Mendelsohn, who is stepping down.

Finney, athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Marymount, said completing the field was the culmination of a dream for him.

He complimented MYS for “taking the lead” on the project, and thanked “the Fairfax County Board Authority [cq.].”

Finney said he has spent “21 years riding the roads, looking for a home for Marymount University’s sports teams.”

“Our prayers have been answered,” he said. “Marymount University has been a proud supporter of this project.”

“[NCAA] Division 3 soccer and lacrosse games will be here for all to see,” he said.

Kevin Fay, Dranesville District’s representative to the Fairfax County Park Authority Board, said the field is “a great example of what we can provide for this county, and a good model for how we can proceed in the future.” He too thanked MYS and Marymount “for this gorgeous field.

“It will test for the first time this surface, where we are not able to irrigate fields,” Fay said.“It is coming at no cost to the taxpayers.”

“It’s amazing to walk on this field, and know there is nothing natural here,” said Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn. “If it works, and if we can afford it, it should work well” as a model.

“The government can’t afford to do this on its own,” Mendelsohn said. “MYS was the creator and Marymount was willing to be creative for this dream to come true.”

“MYS, with 3,600 members, is the largest public service organization in this community, compared to the McLean Citizens Association, with 800 members,” Kinghorn said. Players from MYS soccer teams, including the Green Lightning, and the Green “Goddessiators,” listened as they waited to dive into the cake.

“We do it for you,” Kinghorn told them. “We are honored to work with you. The most important thing is [your] safety.”