Front Royal will receive federal and private grants to help transform Virginia's worst modern environmental disaster site into soccer fields and commercial development, federal officials announced yesterday.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner awarded a grant of up to $100,000 for use at the former Avtex Fibers plant, one of 10 such grants to help develop Superfund sites.

Also yesterday, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, a Washington-based organization that promotes soccer, announced that it is donating planning and design work for as many as 10 fields to be built on the 440-acre Avtex site.

These announcements came two weeks after federal officials said that a former owner of the Front Royal rayon factory, FMC Corp. of Chicago, agreed to spend about $60 million cleaning up tons of toxic materials at the site on the banks of the Shenandoah River. The agreement was reached 10 years after the manufacturing operation was shut down following 2,000 pollution violations.

The Avtex site was used to manufacture rayon for tires during World War II and rocket nozzle parts for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the 1970s and '80s. It is 90 miles upstream from Washington, near the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Officials in Warren County said the grants would boost their development efforts and speed construction of soccer fields.

"It's great for this area," said Tony Carter, vice mayor of Front Royal.

Browner said the grants were a good way to spark development in communities that have had to deal with toxic waste for years.

"It simply isn't good enough to clean them up," Browner said of the sites. "They have to become a productive part of the community."

Officials in Warren County already have crafted a general plan for developing the site. So EPA officials said the funds would be used for the next step--coordinating cleanup and development efforts, for instance. Dan Flynn, executive director of the Soccer Foundation, said that the fields in Front Royal were the first of 500 they hoped to help build across the country over the next five years.