Nearly 100 people attended the groundbreaking for the new synthetic turf field at Bailey’s Elementary School on Saturday – in the pouring rain!
Spirits were not dampened, though, as Park Authority member Frank Vajda, School Board member Kaye Kory, and I saluted the partnership of county/parks/schools that is cooperating to install the new field. Sports representatives included Kip Germain of the Annandale Boys and Girls Clubs, and Larry Dunn and Mike Slocum with Team America. They were joined by dozens of boys and girls who are anxious to begin playing on the new field this fall.
The Bailey’s field is the 23rd synthetic turf field conversion in Fairfax County since the program started. The $800,000 project will renovate a 180-foot by 340-foot field, and includes a bump-out area with a backstop. The Park Authority designed and planned the project; the school system will oversee the construction; and the county’s Community and Recreation Services will schedule the field usage. Maintenance will be handled by the Park Authority. Project completion is anticipated this September.
The Bailey’s field arguably is the most overused field in the county, and it shows. During the school day, the field is used by elementary school students. After school, some J.E.B. Stuart teams use the field for practice. On weekends, you can find youth teams and adults vying for play space. Synthetic turf renovation turns a three-season field into a four-season field but, more importantly, synthetic turf withstands heavy usage. Because it is constructed with multiple layers of drainage material underneath, a synthetic turf field can be used during and immediately after rainstorms. Unless there is electrical storm activity, a synthetic turf field does not need to be closed for play as is common with regular grass fields.
Last week’s conference on “The New Urban Economic Model: The Transformation of Fairfax County,” sponsored by the county’s Economic Development Authority, featured a panel of leaders from three major corporations that recently re-located to Fairfax County. The question posed to Volkswagen of America, CSC, and Hilton Hotels was the same: why did you decide to locate in Fairfax County? The answers were similar for all three: a fine education system, an attractive quality of life, and a vibrant market. Although the presence of the federal government in our region was considered a plus for relocation, it was not the decisive factor. A diverse and energetic talent pool helps, as does a business-friendly atmosphere in both the county and the state.
Also on the conference agenda was a presentation by Matthew Crosson, president of New York’s Long Island Association, which includes Nassau and Suffolk counties. Long Island was the site of the first post-war suburb, Levittown. Mr. Crosson said that city dwellers moved to the suburbs to claim their own little piece of land, and gain some local control. Their efforts worked too well: the two counties now have some 900 local government jurisdictions with taxing authority, including school districts, water districts, agricultural districts, and even an escalator district! To reduce duplication and plan for future growth and redevelopment, the Long Island Association was established, bringing the business community together with government and residential interests. An independent survey a few years ago compared Nassau County with Fairfax County, and Fairfax heavily outranked the New York jurisdiction in terms of quality of life, education, and level of taxation. On Thursday, it was interesting to see how the Long Island jurisdictions are preparing for their future growth and redevelopment, just as Fairfax is preparing for the transition to an urban environment.