D.C. United officials have dropped plans to team up with the county to build a soccer practice complex on the Quinn Farm Park property in western Fairfax, team and county officials said.
Washington's professional soccer team, whose offices are in Chantilly, backed out because of uncertainty about how to raise the money it would take to build a team practice facility, small office building and nine playing fields for county soccer teams. A single, irrigated, lighted soccer field with parking could top $1 million, county officials have said.
The breakdown of the plan now leaves county park officials searching for ways to finance the construction of badly needed soccer fields. Public funds are limited, which is why county officials had hoped the private sector would step up.
Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said the plans fell apart because the team realized it would have been too hard to unite the various youth and community soccer groups in an effort to raise their own money to finance the public fields.
"When D.C. United started the discussions with the county, they had in mind that their role would be organizing and fundraising," Frey said.
County officials had hoped the team would pay the initial costs of building the fields in exchange for the county parkland.
"They just couldn't do it," Frey said, adding that the team was not prepared for the difficulty of organizing the many far-flung soccer organizations in a county as large as Fairfax.
Stephen Zack, senior vice president and general manager of D.C. United, said that the team "had hoped to pull together the soccer communities" of Fairfax but that the various groups "were not prepared to put up the money."
Even if money had been found to build the community fields, Zack said, team officials doubted the soccer franchise could have afforded to develop a training and practice center at Quinn Farm.
"The costs were just getting out of line," Zack said, citing escalating expenses related to various environmental, zoning and archaeological concerns at the site.
The parting between the team and the county was amicable, Frey and Zack said. The supervisor said he remained hopeful that Fairfax and the team would continue to be involved in other projects. "We would love to see D.C. United as a viable part of the soccer community here," he said.
The D.C. United plan was not without its critics. Some neighbors, especially in the Sully Estates area, said they feared the traffic, noise, parking and lights from the complex. Now that D.C. United has pulled out, Frey said, some of that opposition will dissipate because a commercial enterprise is no longer involved in the use of public parkland.
A public meeting on Quinn Farm Park is planned for spring, he said.
The 169-acre park is generally bounded on the north by the Richard Jones Park and the Pleasant Valley Golf Course, on the east by Old Lee Road, on the south by Braddock Road and on the west by Pleasant Valley Road.
Officials said the county's future use of the land is of special significance because it is one of a dwindling number of publicly owned parcels of open space in Fairfax.