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Lighted Ballfields for Colin Powell Elem.?

If all goes well, Colin Powell Elementary will eventually have two lighted diamonds, and the Southwestern Youth Association will have more ballfields to play on at night.

Sully District Park Authority representative Hal Strickland and Park Authority Special Projects Manager John Pitts explained the idea at the Feb. 15 meeting of the West Fairfax County Citizens Association (WFCCA) Land-Use Committee.

"ARROWHEAD PARK and Colin Powell school are right next to each other," said Strickland. "Arrowhead Park is master-planned for four rectangular fields, lighted and irrigated. Colin Powell has two 60-foot diamonds and one rectangular field, all irrigated."

When Pulte Home Corp. was first building the Faircrest community (formerly Centreville Farms) in that area, the Park Authority allowed the developer a new access to Stringfellow Road across part of Arrowhead Park, in exchange for additional land enlarging the park. It also allowed Pulte to use the existing park as a staging area and for storage, in exchange for the completion of the four new rectangular fields.

"Pulte stayed about a year longer than it should have, and that kept these ballfields out of play," said Strickland. "So Pulte agreed to increase its proffer to sod the fields, provide water to irrigate them — and to buy the lights for Powell's two diamonds."

And that's great, he said, because it benefits both the school and youth sports teams. Said Strickland: "SYA doesn't have a lighted field in this area and desperately needs them for boys baseball and girls softball."

It also allowed the Park Authority to use existing funds to complete the irrigation and lighting of two of the Arrowhead fields. Furthermore, said Strickland, "In our planning, the school site was located next to the park to allow seamless use of these fields by the community."

Toward that end, the Park Authority funded extra parking at Powell, and the school's playground can be shared by children whose SYA siblings are playing ball. "We'll put in a restroom, picnic area and trails in the park," said Strickland. "And students could go there on field trips."

Elementary schools seldom have lights on their fields, so none were included when Powell was built. But now that a funding source is available, the Park Authority needs the county's permission to put them in at Powell because it's a change to what was originally planned.

Right before the WFCCA meeting, Park Authority staff, Strickland and Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) met at Powell with about 30 nearby residents to discuss the plans and answer questions. And, said Strickland, they didn't mind the school's fields being lighted.

ONE REASON, he said, is because the diamond fields are buffered on all sides "so it's one of the least-intrusive sites we have."

The WFCCA, which was also amenable, approved the plan unanimously. "The lights are not very close to any residential [areas], so there shouldn't be any impact," said WFCCA Chairman Jim Katcham. "And they're using state-of-the-art, downcast lights. The kids need more ballfields to play on in the evenings."

Next stop is the county Planning Commission, next Thursday, March 3, for the final say on this issue, but Strickland doesn't anticipate any hurdles.

Pleased with how things are turning out, he said Frey's been very supportive. "He recognized SYA's need for lit diamonds and the general need for rectangular fields in this area," said Strickland. "And Pulte and [its vice president] Stan Settle stepped right up. Pulte put in an additional $425,000 in proffers. A lot of people have worked hard to make this possible, and the final result will be beneficial to the citizens."

Frey, too, was happy about last week's meeting with the residents. "The youth ball club folks turned out to demonstrate their support and express their belief that the lights are needed," he said. "I'm convinced they're needed, too."

"There are only so many fields you can build, and we've got to start to maximize the utilization of the ones that we've got," continued Frey. "One way of doing that is to light some, and I think these will work well."

Since the fields are part of the complex with Arrowhead — that was always planned to be lighted, said Frey, "It makes sense." "We're going to move ahead as fast as we can to get the community on the fields. I'm looking forward to it — that's going to be just a tremendous field complex."