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RA Pledges $100K for SLHS Turf Fields

Community contributions and potential county grant getting synthetic turf fields closer to reality by 2012-13 school year.

's board of directors last week unanimously voted to contribute $100,000 to the quest to bring synthetic turf athletic fields to South Lakes High School, putting the project one step closer to being a reality.

The price tag for the two turf fields (one at the stadium, the other on the field area between South Lakes and ) is expected to be $1.4 million.

At RA's regular board meeting Thursday,  Parks and Recreation Director Larry Butler presented to the board a list of other community contributors.

The largest part will be paid for by a builder's proffer and a $175,000 Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) Grant. Reston Soccer Association will give $250,000 to the cause.

The proffer comes from a previous deal put in place when Arrowbrook Centre was built off of Centreville Road in Herndon. The proffer was to build Arrowbrook Park - the turf soccer facility nearby the mixed-used development - and an additional turf field somewhere else in the Hunter Mill District, says Bill Bouie, Chairman of the Fairfax County Park Authority Board. Bouie said the proffer was for up to $1.3 million.

South Lakes is one of four FCPS high schools applying for the NCS grant. Centreville, Robinson and McLean are also seeking the grant money. A deciscion is expected by Feb. 15, Bouie said.

South Lakes High School has pledged $30,000 from discretionary funds, says Principal Bruce Butler.

"The monies we are committing come from school based funds -gate receipts, contributions, monopole disbursements," said Bruce Butler, who is Larry Butler's brother. "No appropriated funds (county tax based funds) can be used for the project."

The school's athletic boosters group said it will pay $15,000 annually to the reserve and replacement fund.  has also offered $100,000.

RA CEO Milton Matthews said the RA money will come mainly from fees paid to the association by non residents.

With all this in place, the project will likely have the $650,000 it needs for construction to start. Ideally, construction would begin this spring and the fields would be ready for use at the start of the 2012-13 school year, both Bouie and Larry Butler said.

The stadium field would be built by the community partners (RA, RCC, Reston Soccer Association and the SLHS boosters), said Larry Butler. The proffer money and grant money would go for what is being called the community field, which would also have lights. He added the project is saving money by condensing the design and engineering costs of building two fields at once.

Larry Butler said in his presentation to RA that turf fields would benefit the entire community. He cited studies that show lighted turf fields get 60 percent more use because practice and games are not limited due to weather.

To read about the county's synthetic fields, click here. To read the county's policy on allocating field time to community partners, click here.

Bill Bouie February 01, 2012 at 04:58 PM
John, Exactly. That is why it is a prerequisite for turf fields to either have lights or plan to install lights on those fields in the near future so that we get the expanded usage and the additional season from November to March.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Never mind the County propaganda. Where's the MOU?
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Since the "Community use" field, aka the football practice field, will not be lit, the enhanced usage will not be realized, especially in the Fall, when the sun sets at 7 on Labor Day and the field won't be available for the kids (from Great Falls and Vienna?) until 5 pm (who knows when, if ever, Reston kids will get the field). Where is that MOU that will alleviate all our concerns, Bill? So RA is spending $100,000 so that there is an artificial turf field that will be used by someone after 5 pm in May and June. Remind me what sports play on a rectangular field in those two months? It ain't baseball whom Larry Burler has told must wait several years for their Browns Chapel fields to be rebuilt.
Bill Bouie February 01, 2012 at 05:31 PM
John, The practice field will be lit in the project and as far as field use during the summer months, the practice field will be available for RCC and RA to use for Summer Camps (Revenue Producing to offset some costs) and other public events. During the summer months, the fields will be available for the full day. There are a number of other fitness activities that will be able to conducted at the field.
Michael February 01, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Rectangular-field sports in May and June: soccer and lacrosse. Both huge, and growing. Plus all summer. Sunset is also considerably later than 7PM during these months, giving more hours of availability. The unlit field will available until 7Pm through the full month of September based on twilight guidelines for youth sports. The community will also gain from use of the stadium field which is currently scheduled very strictly to protect the grass. Even when SLHS teams are practicing there, we will benefit from the other fields they vacate in order to do so.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Michael Lacrosse may be growing but it starts from a tiny base. What are the raw number of RA participants? Soccer seems to have plateaued and, in Reston at least, doesn't use all of the rectangular RA fields available to it. Within 15 minutes of sunset (which is measured when the horizon splits the disk of the sun), its too dark to play without lights. The sun sets at 7 on Labor Day and by the end of the month, it's setting before 6. Most rectangular field youth sports leagues take a hiatus when school is out. Until an MOU is produced, the promises of RA member use are illusory and, even after that, are likely to be unenforceable. Bill This project will put in two FieldTurf field and light the Community Use field and the budget is just over $600,000? Those numbers do not add up.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Correction I typed $600k, when I was thinking $1.4mm. Those numbers still don't add up.
Bill Bouie February 01, 2012 at 05:56 PM
The Community Partners are paying for the stadium field and FCPA is working to provide the Community Use fields and lights.
Bill Bouie February 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Depending on the site preparation work that has to be done, fields typically run $600 to $800K without lights, per field.
Michael February 01, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Correction, John: US Sunset time, September 30, Reston, VA: 6:53 PM. NOT before 6 as you claim. Source: US Naval Observatory. Think about it - the equinox is in late Sept., and by definition contains 12 full hours of daylight. Both your facts and your reasoning are inaccurate.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Bill Fall High School sports teams start practicing the first week of August. So the "full day" availability is limited to the 5 weeks from the end of school until the first of August when most youth sports are on hiatus. RA camps are subsidized by assessments. I cannot imagine anyone would think its a good idea to have RA campers on an unshaded rectangular artificial turf field in the heat of July with all of the extra heat that those fields hold and emit.
Michael February 01, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Except that there's trees, and you can bring tents.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Michael Since most players of youth sports rely on parents to get them to their practice and those parents have to get home from work before the kids can get to the field, sunset at 6:53 prevents practical use of an unlit field in the Fall.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 06:13 PM
So 2 FieldTurf fields + lights is going to be closer to $1.8mm than $1.4.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Michael Look at the aerial photograph, you'd have to take a cab to get under a tree from either field. I've helped run national fastpitch tournaments on those fields. Even with dugout covers, heat stroke is a real problem in the summer there both for players who've been acclimated by an entire season of play outdoors and for spectators. For RA Campers, its threat sufficient to discount any extended use of those fields as a justification for these fields. These fields are being built for soccer and lacrosse. Soccer doesn't use the RA fields it already has. Lacrosse doesn't have the numbers of RA members to justify $100,000 to improve non-RA land.
Patrick McBride February 01, 2012 at 06:33 PM
John, We get it. You don't want new turf fields. Your argument seems to wander from it is illegal, to it is bad use of RA funds to it will be harmful to the kids, to the fields won't get enough use to justify the investment. You are certainly entitled to your opinion(s) -- which you have most definitely expressed. I would however ask you to refrain from representing the interests of others (RYA football, lax, SHLS sports program, Reston soccer, RA summer programs and the like). I am sure these programs can speak for themselves. I will speak for myself, as a former board member and RYA football coach. Whether or not there is new turf field at SLHS/LHMS RYA will likely still practice there (great central location for the kids). Even w/out lights we practiced from mid-August until late November from 6-8pm -- yes even in the fall after the time change. I know these fields will get plenty of use from these teams and suspect that soccer believes the same since they made a sizable contribution. RYA had use of new FFX County funded grass field at Stratton Woods (http://maps.google.com/?ll=38.942323,-77.384466&spn=0.001089,0.002334&t=h&z=19) for home games. It was a nice facility with a nice baseball filed too. But the grass wore thin in 1.5 years of use (rocks in the middle). Further, we often had to cancel games or move them to an opponents locations when it rained (Chantilly, Vienna, Herndon, etc). They all HAD new turf fields. Respectfully, Patrick McBride
janet otersen February 01, 2012 at 06:35 PM
The bigger concern here is this Wild west mentality of raising funds for these fields. Every school has a different method. Why? I would like to see a list of every high school field and who paid for what. I know Lee HS got one a few years ago and I don't thing the community paid any money--it came from proffers. The ongoing expenses are also huge. I believe schools (Boosters) have to set aside $30k per year for future refurbishment. Easy to do at Westfield---not so much at a school like Lee. I want to see consistent funding for these fields.
Laura Calacci February 01, 2012 at 06:41 PM
John, Bill & Karen, I have a question. I read where South Lakes High Schoo's contribution will come from discretionary funds including booster donations, gate receipts, concession sales, etc. It said they could not use county or "taxpayer" funds for the fields. But then, it said the Reston Community Center was giving them a chunk of change. Isn't RCC funded by taxes? Seems like some strange accounting to me.
Karen Goff February 01, 2012 at 06:50 PM
What that likely means is the school cannot use money allocated by the county for general school administration for this project. There likely is nothing in the county rules that prohibit a county group (ie, RCC) from donating.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Patrick No where did I claim to write for anyone but myself based on my own experience and observations. I've advocated for RA to light a field for RYA practice for the 2 years I've been on the RA PPAC committee. I've watch RYA practice by the light of the distant fastpitch fields. I've watched RYA practice by the light of the Langston parking lot. It's wrong and it should have been be fixed along time ago. Will the MOU guarantee that RYA will actually get to use the field? And if the field is assigned by County staff to an organization other than RYA or another RA member based organization, what recourse will RYA or RA have? I've also watched RYA coaches run the same play over and over again in exactly the same place on a grass field and make a fastpitch outfield unplayable for a sunny, dry weekend. My observations have wandered as the justifications for RA spending $100k on someone else's land have wandered. And boy have they wandered. My doubts about FieldTurf relate to safety of kids for whom cognitive impairment from head trauma can become a life long problem and can shorten lives. No one can tell us that FieldTurf won't have the same track record as AstroTurf. As a youth coach I'd hope you'd be equally concerned.
Michael February 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM
John, I have repeatedly run practices until 7PM in the fall with issues on transportation, attendance, or daylight. People carpool and it works great. I did look at the photo again - the shade is less than a field-length away. Tents would be even closer. Nobody should have to "take a cab" to get that far. Further growth in soccer is anticipated due to the increased enrollments in most Reston schools in Kindergarten and 1st grade.
Michael February 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM
And, since the community field WILL be lit, contrary to your claim, I'm not sure why we're even still talking about a 7PM stop time anyway.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 07:34 PM
$1.4 does not pay for lights on the football practice field. As Bill described, FieldTurf is $600-800,000 per field. Two FieldTurf fields are $1.2-1.6. Lights run $250,000+. The fields will go in now. The lights come later, if ever.
Bill Bouie February 01, 2012 at 07:47 PM
John, Please stop the madness, you are wrong on every count. The lights will go in at the same time as the practice field. The school and community groups will pay for the stadium field, and FCPA will take care of the community use field complete with lights. Since you are such an advocate for youth sports and activities, step up and contribute to one of the groups that is trying to do something positive for this community, that will effect children and adults as well. Support a program that is long lasting and something to keep our children busy. The more of these fields that we are able to partner with schools on, the closer we can get back to potentially offering intramural sports to our middle school children that were eliminated years ago. It would promote school and class spirit, give kids an afterschool activity, and promote physical well being at the same time. This is a GREAT investment in this community.
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Bill I'd be happy to contribute to a safe lighted field for RYA. How much are you kicking in, personally? Maybe that's the answer. Instead of getting the money from RA under questionable legal circumstances, let's have the Friends of Reston, who funded Nature House, do fundraising for those lights. Where is that MOU, Bill?
Bill Bouie February 01, 2012 at 08:03 PM
John, In addition to working with all of these great people to make this happen, I am in for $1,000. Will you match?
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 08:07 PM
This whole exchange reminds me of my high school classmate who would argue over which manufacturer made the best headphones at every lunch period because he just had to have the "best" headphones. He was always trying to work an angle to get someone else to pay for the latest model. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Uncle Pete. Invariably, some other kid would buy a newer set and it would start all over again. Today, he's deaf and relies on hearing aides. Be careful what you covet?
John Farrell February 01, 2012 at 08:10 PM
For a grass field with lights, absolutely.
Karen Goff February 01, 2012 at 11:48 PM
South Lakes Boosters have said they will pay $15k annually for r and r.
Reston Resident February 07, 2012 at 09:29 PM
As a Reston resident and long time participant in sports at South Lakes and the youth leagues here, I can say John Farrell is correct about the Reston fields being allocated to kids all across the county. I played on a travel baseball team for South Lakes (comprised of 95% South Lakes kids) and we had serious issues getting on South Lakes baseball field in our season. That MOU should be produced and amended so that Reston Residents, Reston sports teams, and SOUTH LAKES STUDENTS get priority. i would be very skeptical about the allocation of usage for these teams if the County gets the final say on who can play on them and when,

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