Artificial-Turf Soccer Field Is in the Works

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 1, 2007

Work is expected to begin next month on what will be the largest artificial-turf soccer field in Fairfax County, in Patriot Park near Burke, park officials said.

The lighted field, which would be divided into three micro soccer fields for children 10 and younger, represents the first step to transform a relatively new 97 acres of woodland into a park with baseball diamonds, adult soccer fields, trails and nature areas, park officials said.

The Fairfax County Park Authority Board unanimously approved the $2.33 million contract at its regular meeting last month. That cleared the way for construction of the soccer field, sidewalks, trails, 120-space parking lot and an access road, on land near the Mott Community Center in the northwest tip of the park. John R. Lehman, who oversees Park Authority project managers, said construction is expected to be completed by October. About a third of the park, including a swath along Piney Branch Creek in its western area, would remain largely untouched.

"Right now, it's basically rolling, wooded areas," said Kenneth G. Feng, a Park Authority Board member from Burke. "When we looked at this . . . it's really ideal for soccer."

For one, a large chunk of the land is bounded by the Fairfax County Parkway, so the lighted fields should disturb fewer residents, Feng said.

He said the new playing area should alleviate the voracious demand for soccer fields, driven by the game's popularity among recent immigrants and a growing general interest in the sport. A recent survey found that Fairfax has a shortage of 117 rectangular fields across the county. Judy Pederson, a Park Authority spokeswoman, said Patriot Park's new synthetic field, at 420 feet by 230 feet, will be the largest in the county.

The park -- bounded by Braddock Road to the north, First Road to east and the Fairfax County Parkway to the south and west -- was assembled from properties acquired between 2001 and 2002, senior planner Angie Allen said.

Some 58 acres were purchased for about $500,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation after construction of the parkway, and about 13 acres were acquired from the George Mason University Foundation for about $245,000. The remainder came from private owners.

The entire cost of building the first phase was estimated at $2.65 million. The second phase of construction, which isn't funded, would involve upgrading First Road and adding three 90-foot baseball diamonds, three adult-size soccer fields and family picnic or playground areas, Lehman said.

The contract approved last month went to the second-lowest bidder, Tessa Construction and Technical Co. of Chantilly. The lowest bid was rejected because the authority thought the company didn't have enough experience with such work. The winning bid was almost 20 percent lower than the Park Authority's pre-bid estimate, officials said.

Voters approved $3.5 million in bonds in 2004 to pay for the first phase of fixing up the park. Lehman said the board has not raised money yet for work in the eastern end of the park, which he estimated could cost $5 million to $10 million. The board could consider adding that work to the list of items in the anticipated 2008 bond issue.

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