Shovels in hand, members of the Board of Supervisors, School Board, Prosperity Bank and the Springfield Youth Club broke ground for a new artificial turf field behind West Springfield High School on Thursday, June 22.
"I have a grandson who will be playing football here in the fall," said Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield), who also lives across the street from the school.
Just a few days after the end of the school year, the football field behind the school was already torn up to make way for grading that would level the field and prepare it for the artificial turf.
"Fairfax County is committed to investing in our kids," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-At-large). "If we want to fight gangs, we have to create opportunities for our kids to participate in productive activities, and sports are one of the most positive endeavors we can offer."
A few years ago, when discussions first started about the possibility of installing artificial turf on the football field at West Springfield, "we were all really excited about this at the School Board," said School Board member Cathy Belter (Springfield). "We're very happy to be involved with the SYC in making this happen."
Recalling her own son's love of playing baseball with SYC as a child, Belter said it is " a wonderful program for the youth in the club. It's nice to be able to recommit to what we've done in the past to help our children," she said.
Funding for the field was established by Prosperity Bank, said Bob Glomb, a vice president at the bank.
"We are grateful for the relationship with the Springfield Youth Club," said Glomb, after the ceremonial groundbreaking. "This project is going to be great for the families who use the field."
THE FIELD will be used by West Springfield athletic teams during the school year, but will also be available to Springfield Youth Club teams and some adult leagues as well, said Dennis Clausen, president of the SYC.
"There are over 4,900 families that participate in our clubs with a total of over 10,000 registrations for our sports," Clausen said.
With playing fields in high demand due to the number of teams and leagues that need places to play, the addition of another artificial surface field will make a world of difference in terms of availability, Clausen said.
Enrollment for youth athletics is booming as the population grows, said Mike Dobson, director of student activities at West Springfield High School.
"There aren't too many expansive tracts of land left in the county," Dobson said. "We have to make the fields we have more playable more often. The only way to not restrict our fields is to make it maintenance free."
Dobson said there have been many days when he's cringed at the thought of the field being used by sports teams because he'd been trying to grow grass on the field.
"This is a beautiful piece of land that we want to open up to lacrosse, football and soccer teams," Dobson said. "Our physical education classes will be out here, SYC teams will be out here, our sports teams or other teams can hold camps here all summer because the grass won't get torn up."
Calling the partnership among the county, school, bank and sports club a "wonderful model," West Springfield principal Dr. David Smith said the installation of the field is a "process that will benefit everyone."
Despite not being at the ceremony, Dean Tistadt, assistant superintendent of facilities and transportation for the School Board, was thanked for his commitment to the project, as was Jeff Wagonhurst, a volunteer with SYC and football coach at West Springfield who was with the West Springfield football team at a training camp in West Virginia during the groundbreaking.
The field will be installed this summer and a ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 15, the night of the first home football game of the season, Dobson said.