Athletes Await Sportsplex

Athletes Await Sportsplex

Park Authority Board hears market plan for Laurel Hill Sportsplex.

Still no price tag for the proposed Laurel Hill Sportsplex, but members of the Fairfax County Park Authority Board now have a better understanding of just who would use the facility when it is built.

Representatives of Brailsford and Dunlavey, a consulting firm hired by the Park Authority to develop a business plan for the sports facility on Wednesday, Dec. 12, presented an updated look at the nuts and bolts of operating a sports complex.

Using a handful of similar facilities as examples, including the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., the consultants feel the best way to fund and operate the facility would be to have the county help pay for its construction, but then rely on rental fees and regular user fees to keep it self-supporting.

"We aren’t really concerned about revenues because we know, when this is built, it will be supported by a highly-stable market," said consultant Paul Brailsford.

Another option for covering operating and maintenance expenses is the recruitment of sponsors, but Park Authority planning advisor Kirk Holley said those could not be considered until the facility was nearly completed.

"We won’t be able to show any money to the creditors [if debt is incurred to build the facility] because none of the sponsorship material will be in yet," Holley said.

Brailsford also said two sponsors from the same field would not be accepted. For example, if one bank signed on as a sponsor, applications from other banks would be denied.

Holley and Brailsford also told the Park Authority Board they were working on a system of ranking and rating the groups that would use the facility in order to determine when certain fields or courts would be reserved.

"We will have a system of preferred times and secondary times available for groups to use the fields," Brailsford said. What was encouraging, he pointed out, was if one group could not keep its reservation for a particular time slot, "another group or two would be waiting in the wings ready to take it over, so we’d never have to lose money."

USER FEES for the facility would be "market-based," determined by the ability of the group using the field to pay, the report stated. Additionally, some preference may be given to Fairfax County Public School athletic teams, as requested and promised by Park Authority Board Chairman Hal Strickland.

The key demographic for the Sportsplex would be people between the ages of 19 and 30, the largest group of athletes with the most available time and disposable income.

"This doesn’t mean it’s the only group we’re looking to serve, but by using a demographically-dominant approach, we get a better idea of where our support is coming from," Brailsford said.

The consultants will be returning to the Park Authority Board for two meetings in January, to discuss their model for determining the market and to present their financial plan.

Before outlining what types of facilities and uses will best serve the community, Holley told the Board that FXVA, the county’s tourism initiative, has agreed to pay for another consultant to examine the needs of the county’s athletes.