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Field House Moves Forward

Development agreement for public/private facility is signed.

Indoor track, ice skating, basketball, concerts and high-school graduations — all these things and more will someday take place in Sully District's field house. That's because the Fairfax County Park Authority has signed a 30-year lease agreement with a private entity to develop and run the facility.

It'll be near Westfield High and next to the new Cub Run Rec Center in Chantilly. And it'll be unlike anything ever built here.

"This field house will probably be one of the best recreational facilities on the East Coast," said Del. Gary Reese (R-67th). "And the people of Sully District deserve it because they waited a long time."

When Reese was Sully's representative on the county School Board, he and Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), plus Sully District Park Authority representative Hal Strickland, helped lay the groundwork for the plan. And all three are delighted to see it finally taking off.

"A FEW THINGS still need to be resolved — for example, they still need to have their site plans approved," said Frey. "But this was a huge step. "Signing this agreement certainly brings it closer to reality."

"It's really outstanding," agreed Strickland. "I take pride in this accomplishment. It's another building block for our community that enhances our quality of life in Sully."

The private partner is West County Field House LLC — consisting of Landmark Sports and Entertainment of Clifton plus D.W. Sivers Cos. of Portland, Ore. Sivers has extensive experience in sports-related development and management; Landmark's forte is sports-facility construction. And the three primary components of the 160,000-square-foot field house will be:

* An indoor track — 200 meters with eight straight and six oval lanes, plus amenities for pole vault, high jump and long jump. Within the perimeter of the track will be a multipurpose surface for indoor soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and indoor football. It may also be used for competitive gymnastics and cheerleading — as well as concerts, graduations, conventions, large-scale speaking events and youth dances.

* An ice rink — NHL-regulation size, 85x200 feet, for ice hockey, figure skating and public skating. However, it'll be able to be converted to multiple types of surfaces for in-line hockey, public roller skating or skateboarding. The floor may be covered over or taken out, altogether, for particular events.

* Hardwood-floor area — For basketball, volleyball, futsal (five-on-five soccer on a hardwood court) and gymnastics. The three, large basketball courts are college-size, but may be used for several, smaller youth-basketball courts or for six volleyball courts.

All three components will be able to interact with each other. The building can flex to accommodate multiple sporting events at the same time. And it's designed to handle large tournaments to support the school system.

EVERY FLOOR can convert to whatever type is needed for a variety of activities. For example, a high-school graduation on a Saturday could be followed by a philharmonic performance on Sunday and a track meet on Monday.

Or the building could conceivably host ice skating, a track meet, gymnastics, football and swimming competitions all within the same day. Called The Field House at Cub Run, it'll share parking with the rec center, but will operate independently.

The public/private partnership symbolizes the cooperation between the Board of Supervisors, Park Authority, school system and the private sector. "All this land was school land," said Reese. "And there was no other place to put a field house — and no other way to get it done," other than this type of partnership.

"It goes way back to when we got the land," he said. "I insisted we put on a footprint for an extra-large rec center/field house to serve all of western Fairfax County." However, although the rec center will have lots of terrific amenities when it opens in July, the Park Authority could stretch its available dollars only so far.

The bond referendum funding most of it wasn't enough to accommodate all the things area residents said in surveys and at public meetings that they especially wanted. The solution was a field house built in conjunction with a private entity.

"It took a lot of give on behalf of the school system, supervision by the Park Authority and a willing partner who'd enter into this public/private partnership," said Reese. "But there was a tremendous need for a field house."

SO WHEN the Park Authority sought a location for a new rec center to serve this part of the county, the school system offered 28 acres of land. In exchange, the Park Authority would have a facility built to meet the schools' winter-track needs and also host large events such as graduations and concerts.

"It's a great example of how we can work with the private sector to meet many of our citizens' needs," said Strickland. "[Through the partnership], we're able to honor commitments that we were unable to, through normal funding, with the Park Authority. With the use of school land, we promised we'd do our best to get the field house in there. And now, with the private sector, we've met that commitment."

Supervisor Frey said the agreement took so long to sign because "the private entity was doing a business plan and surveying schools, youth clubs and other user groups to see what was needed. Then it needed to put its own financing in place." Now, he said, "It's fun to see all this stuff coming together. We've been talking about it for a long time."

Reese can hardly wait. "We can no longer use [GMU's] Patriot Center for indoor track, so there's a desperate need for a [new location]," he said. "And graduations cost $8,000 or $9,000 each, and we have 24 a year there." He doesn't anticipate groundbreaking until September. But, he said, "With private enterprise involved, they could probably have it up, a year later."

"The school and rec center overlook the gateway to the 2,200 acres we've just acquired, so this kicks off this whole, new park area," added Frey. "[County] staff recommends calling it Sully Woodlands, and a couple district parks will be within it. The high school, rec center and field house will be a beautiful complex."

And with sports classes, clinics and instruction also planned there, Strickland is pleased that the field house "focuses on the young folks and gives them a place to go."