I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and fretting over the conflict that popped up over Upper Loudoun Youth Football League (ULYFL) using the new Woodgrove High School football field (built with durable FieldTurf). I know that the conflict over the lights and noise have been resolved, and it looks like our boys will be able to play games there next year, but it has given me pause in general over the way that athletic fields are managed and allocated here in Loudoun. I’m still scratching my head over the suggestion that lighting a baseball field at Franklin Park will mollify parents of football players that didn’t get to hold their playoff games at Woodgrove.
I’ve had kids playing various sports in and around Loudoun for the last 8 years, so I’ve got some experience in seeing how fields are parsed out for use by the various sports leagues. I really wanted to write a post that would give us all a better understanding of how many athletic fields there are across the county, what organizations were responsible for maintaining them and scheduling play, and how many of those fields are lighted. We have a tremendous amount of youngsters in this county involved in youth sports, and the recreational leagues for the most part take as many little athletes as want to play (provided they have enough coaches). So the number of available fields is critical to keeping these programs running.
Rather than having answers for you, I am full of questions. Loudoun County’s Parks and Recreation department handles the County athletic fields, including Claude Moore in Sterling, Franklin Park in Purcellville, Woodgrove Park in Round Hill, Trailside and Edgar Tillet in Ashburn, etc. They also have a working relationship with the school system to utilize school fields, but I’m not sure if that is on a per-school basis: some of the high schools allow their softball fields to be utilized, for example, while others either don’t allow it or those fields haven’t been allocated. There are also athletic complexes controlled by individual towns, namely Freedom Park in Leesburg, that would be a perfect location to host tournaments, but seems to be under-utilized.
In looking at the draft strategic plan for Parks and Rec (dated June 2010) it looks like they recognize the need for additional facilities, but the focus is on procuring new facilities, rather than improving existing ones. My one specific question is this: if most of the softball fields managed by the county in the eastern part of the county are lighted, why is it not in the strategic plan to light the ones in the western part? How many extra hours of field availability would that give those complexes? (Nevermind the ability to host regional tournaments.) If we have sports organizations that are being turned away because there aren’t enough fields to accommodate all of the teams, what is being planned to remedy that?
I’m going to work on getting some answers, I have a feeling this is going to take more than a few phone calls and emails. Stay tuned.