The Alexandria City Council voted to accept the concept of an all-city sports facility and will decide during budget discussions whether to include the $100,000 to study the feasibility of the project. City Manager Philip Sunderland included the funds in his proposed budget.
"The money would allow us to work with a consultant selected by the city and to move the project forward," said A. Melvin Miller, one of the members of the citizen's committee that has been looking into the feasibility of such a facility.
Linwood Campbell, co chair of that committee said, "We have been meeting since November and have considered many different issues. Thirty-three years ago traditional nighttime football disappeared from the public schools in our city. With that disappearance, a community gathering place that brought together all of the elements of our diverse city was, in large part, also lost.
"In the intervening years, there have been ongoing discussions by various city leaders as to how returning Friday night football to T.C. Williams High School might be achieved. The decision to reconstruct T.C. Williams has provided the city with an unparalleled opportunity to revisit the issue once again. We have before us the potential to increase recreational sports citywide and to allow for T.C. Williams to join with other Northern Virginia high schools in experiencing, celebrating, and creating memories of this traditional high school pastime," Campbell said.
THE FACILITY would include a large multi-use athletic field, with artificial turf, track, spectator stands, locker rooms, restrooms, and a concession stand, that could accommodate many sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey. Additionally, the facility would contain two additional fields that could accommodate baseball and softball.
"I notice that there isn't anyone from the school system or the School Board on this committee," said Councilman Paul Smedberg. "If you are planning for T.C. Williams to use it extensively, don't you think that there should be someone representing the schools?"
Miller responded, saying, "We have certainly had many discussions with members of the School Board and with school staff. They are all generally supportive of what we are doing," he said.
Mayor William D. Euille confirmed this. "I have talked with School Board members and know that the committee has been in contact with school staff and others. As Mr. Miller said, they are very supportive of this concept," he said.
As for the cost of the facility and where would it be located, former Councilman David Speck said, "I have been in discussions with the committee for quite some time and have told them that this is the kind of project that the Capital Development Foundation could certainly take on." Speck is a member of the Foundation Board of Trustees.
"It is a project that would have broad-based community impact and is appropriate to our mission. Of course, it would have to be included in the city's capital improvement plan before we could make any firm commitment. We don't just go out and find projects, we respond to needs that the city has identified."
THE COST OF the project is not known and will not be known until the full feasibility study is conducted. "Until we know exactly what we are building we won't know how much money we need," Miller said.
City staff have studied four sites. "The idea was to look only at land that we already own," Sunderland said. Staff studied the fields at Four Mile Run, Potomac Yard, Hensley Field and a site at Roth and Witter Street.
"As you can see, I think everyone agrees that the only place that this can realistically be put is at Hensley," Sunderland said.
Councilwoman Joyce Woodson spoke about a roller skating rink. "We haven't had indoor roller skating in Alexandria for many years," she said. "I would like to see this studied as part of the process. Perhaps you could put some of the parking underground and build a skating facility on top of the parking."
Council voted to include this as part of the study, which will begin in July if Council appropriates the proposed $100,000.
"I think, within a year of beginning the study, we could come back to Council with some type of a firm proposal," Miller said.