The dozens of parents, children and leaders of local government and businesses could not have asked for a better morning Saturday, a near cloudless blue sky, brisk temperatures and brilliant sunshine, but it didn’t really matter. After all, there were new soccer and baseball fields to enjoy.
The official opening of Capital One Park, located on the McLean headquarters’ corporate campus, was the culmination of two years of work with Capital One, McLean Youth Soccer, Vienna Youth Soccer and the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League.
“Of everybody here, I bet I’m the most excited today,” said Capital One founder, chief executive officer and president Richard Fairbank. “Not only do I get to feel the thrill from the point of view of being a user of these fields because my children play in McLean, I get to make this unique contribution to our community.”
Capital One Park features one regulation-sized soccer field measuring 65 yards by 100 yards, two smaller soccer fields and a regulation-sized, 90-foot baseball diamond, in addition to a pavilion area for snacks and restrooms.
“This is a real thrill for me,” Fairbank said. A father of several active children, he has learned soccer, baseball, ice hockey and golf alongside his children and understands the shortage of playing fields for youth sports.
“We love our sports, we love our community and we love our families,” he said of his employees and associates at Capital One. “My kids remind me at the end of the day what priorities are all about. Our associates gave 50,000 hours of their time to helping kids, and it’s that same passion you see here today.”
The scarcity of soccer fields is compounded by the shortage of open space available in McLean, which Fairbank said Capital One had, and he said he was glad to be able to make this kind of contribution.
Ted Kinghorn was chairman of McLean Youth Soccer a few years ago when this collaboration was begun.
“WE GOT IN touch with someone from Capital One that knew we were at a loss for soccer fields,” Kinghorn said. After a few meetings, Fairbank’s staff began putting together the initial plans for the sporting complex.
“We helped design the fields and the use agreements, and then they went about their business,” he said.
Calling Capital One “the foremost corporate citizen in McLean,” Kinghorn said the opening of the soccer fields is the achievement of a dream.
“This is so much of a community experience, this will be the facility to replicate all others by,” he said. “Walking down from the parking lots this morning, I heard a bunch of kids saying they were happy to see benches here.”
“This is just fantastic,” said Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois. “This is a great partnership. This is unbelievable … there’s no other word for it. What a spirit of cooperation.”
Her fellow supervisor, Linda Smyth of the Providence District, echoed DuBois’ sentiments. Both supervisors spoke together from the podium during Saturday’s opening ceremonies: While the field is technically in Tysons Corner, part of the Providence District, many of the children who will use the field are in McLean Youth Soccer.
“Joan and I do a lot of land use issues and I was amazed when the folks from Capital One came in and said they wanted to build soccer fields. I almost fell out of my chair,” Smyth said. “This is awesome. This fulfills a need in our community, and we appreciate it.”
McLean Youth Soccer has approximately 3,500 children in its organization, said Mike Riemer, current chairman of McLean Youth Soccer. The organization manages 27 fields during its season, which began a few weeks ago and will continue through the spring and into the early summer.
“This is a true commitment to our community,” he said. “It’s a huge help. We’re always trying to battle to find good fields. One of our biggest challenges is that a vast majority of the fields available in Fairfax County are not good for kids to be playing on. They’re uneven or full of rocks.”
There are only four or five fields of the same caliber as the field at Capital One, Riemer said. “We’re very excited. This is a great opportunity for our club and our community. In an environment where people tend to say, 'Not in my backyard,' for a company to do this is outstanding.”
Richard Montano, president of Vienna Youth Soccer, can sympathize with Riemer’s struggle to find enough playing fields for the 3,100 children in his organization.
“This is a great day for all of us, we’re very excited,” he said. “It addresses a shortage of fields for soccer and how difficult it is to develop fields in this part of Fairfax County.”
SHARING TIME on the fields will allow MYS and VYS to “come together and work together more” on their programs, he said. “There’s not only a shortage of playing fields but a shortage of practice space, and this gives us that space as well. It gives us a place to bring together teams from all over Northern Virginia.”
The availability of more fields could help both soccer programs expand to include more teams, Montano said.
The shortage of available space is also felt by Northern Virginia Travel Baseball, which is made up of teams from throughout the area, said Steve Lyons, one of the league’s chairmen, “especially on fields as well-constructed and nice as this one is going to be.”
Currently there are over 110 teams in the league, which began with seven teams in 1999, Lyons said. There are varsity and junior varsity-level teams that play in the spring, from March until June, and another division for rising high school sophomores through graduated seniors from June through the end of July.
“We’ve been in touch with Capital One to see if we could try to enjoy the use of their fields,” he said. One of the coaches on a team is an employee of Capital One, which is how the league became involved with the sports complex. “They saw the size of our league and decided to include us.”
During the course of a season, the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League plays over 2,000 games, of which a potential 150 games might be played at the new diamond, he said.
“If this can be a field we use on weekends and a couple of nights per week, it’ll be a really big help,” Lyons said.
“With the shortage of youth soccer and baseball fields, we felt compelled to do something because we have all this space,” said Pam Girardo, a spokeswoman from Capital One. “We thought it would be a good idea to use the area to benefit the community. This is part of a continuing effort to be a good member of the community.”
Use agreements have been carefully planned between the two soccer organizations, she said, so that each group has one full day during the weekend and limited uses on specific nights during the week to utilize the three soccer fields.
“Part of the field use is set aside for Capital One employees to have pick-up games or to use during their lunch break,” she said, but most of the fields’ users will be the outside organizations.
McLean Youth Soccer, Vienna Youth Soccer and the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League were selected to utilize the fields because of their proximity to Capital One and the number of children that participate in their organizations, said Jeff Lesher, a volunteer with McLean Youth Soccer.
“Lots of our members are connected to various businesses and fortuitous places,” he said. “The only downside of this is the reality of Capital One’s success. Most likely, if they decide to expand their headquarters as their business grows, they might take back the field, so it maybe temporary, but it’s still so generous.”