To look at it through a neophyte’s eyes, the playing field at Greenbrier Park appears close to perfect. Its bleachers are pristine, its scoreboard is impressive and its artificial grass looks almost green enough to be real.
But the field has had a tumultuous recent past. Renovations that were scheduled to be completed last fall have been delayed for months. And now the field is closed in the middle of the spring high school sports season.
Greenbrier Park is owned and operated by the county but is used as the de facto sports field for Yorktown High School since it is located directly adjacent to the school.
"[The developers] didn’t plan for success," Jim Rock, the former president of the Yorktown High School PTA who has children that participate in Yorktown sports, said.
Rock’s concerns echo those of a sizeable contingent of the Yorktown community.
"Some people think that Jim is on a one-man crusade on this," John Vihstadt, current Yorktown PTA president, said. "[But] the delays and problems of [the] field are a deep and growing concern with the Yorktown PTA community."
Rock is furious with all of the snafus that have occurred in the renovation of the field and has lost all confidence in the developers working on the project.
"I’m just fed up with this," he said. "We’re depending on a contractor that's shown he’s very undependable."
THE PLAYING FIELD was to be completed in January of this year. The deadline was pushed back, however, when a snag arose with the installation of a rubberized track surrounding the field.
The developers intended to install the track in the winter of last year when most sports are played indoors but were unable to because of unusually cold temperatures.
Bill Teague is the owner of Corinthian Contractors, one of the groups working on the Greenbrier project. He said that, "The [track] surface is very sensitive to weather. You can't apply it in sub-freezing or wet conditions."
"We wanted to do it in… January," Robert Capper, the manager of the project for Arlington County, said, "But we needed a three week window of 40 degree or higher temperatures."
The county and the developers, faced with weather that was steadily getting colder, decided to postpone the installation of the track until the spring. While they knew several sports teams would be affected, they scheduled the three-week installation to overlap with spring break to minimize the inconvenience.
This was not satisfactory explanation for Rock, however.
"It gets cold in November every year," he said. "They really should have done it in September before the weather even got bad at all. [We] should have had a track Feb. 1. [Now the teams have] lost a lot of their season."
He added that it is a shame that "We have a very expensive, beautiful field that’s being taken out of service because of the track."
Mike Krulfeld, director of student activities at Yorktown, noted that there were only six games that had to be rescheduled due to the closures. He also said that the delays will be worth it when the track opens and Yorktown will be able to hold its first meet in years.
"The track program has 120 students who have never been able to compete or practice on our field," Krulfeld said.
Rock vehemently disagreed with this line of reasoning and said that school officials shouldn’t be putting the needs of one group of student athletes over the needs of another.
"That makes me irate when they bring that up," he said. "The kids and parents are not at fault. The county and school personnel are."
Teague sympathizes with the Yorktown community and said that the delays were unfortunate but unavoidable.
"We gave it to them [on time] and then we had to turn around and do the track thing," he said. "I know it had to make [the community] feel bad. It's like ‘You did it and now you're taking it back.’"
But Teague also said that the field renovations are only one phase of the Greenbrier Park renovation project, which has been in the works for years now, and that all the other phases are "on schedule."
THE COUNTY GUARANTEED that the field would be open on the evening of April 13 for a boys lacrosse match.
But the Yorktown PTA also took issue with several other aspects of the park’s renovation, including the design of the field’s bleachers and the nearby baseball fields.
Vihstadt said that his organization will be monitoring the many promises made by the county that, according to him, "have bloomed like so many spring flowers. They’re pledging this and they’re pledging that but we want to see the results."
Capper said that despite the issues with the installation of the track, the renovation of Greenbrier Park is "due to be completed at the end of June on schedule and in budget."
He also said that "Frankly, the delays have been minimal."
But even though county officials tried to minimize the impact of the field closing, Rock doesn’t appreciate their nonchalant attitude.
"What the [officials] never seem to have appreciated is how their decisions affect the sports program at Yorktown and how [they] affect the kids and the parents and especially the seniors."