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Opening of $28 million baseball park marks county’s first foray into sports tourism

A $28 million baseball and softball complex in Fairfax officially opened this past weekend, marking the county’s first foray into sports tourism.

The ribbon-cutting for Patriot Park North was held Saturday morning (April 15) with local officials, a Washington Nationals representative, and Little Leaguers all in attendance.

The new facility features four turf, 90-foot, full-size baseball diamonds, two 60-foot smaller diamonds, an elevated press and scouting box, concession stands, warm-up areas, streaming capabilities, and a baseball-themed playground.

The facility was designed, constructed, and is now run by the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

“This is a state-of-the-art facility for youth and adult sports,” Fairfax County Board Chairman Jeff McKay said in a county-produced video. “It is really rare, one-of-a-kind, to have a turf baseball field and to have this many baseball and softball fields in one location. It will not only help this community but it helps with tournaments and other big events.”

A collaboration with the Southwestern Youth Association, Patriot Park North is the first project to come out of a push by the Sports Tourism Task Force and a number of county agencies to build sports facilities that not only benefit residents, but also bring in tourism revenue by hosting tournaments and events.

Patriot Park North has 26 committed events between April and November, per the office of Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, who chairs the Sports Tourism Task Force.

Each event is “anticipated to net between $162,000 to more than $1 million” with a projected economic impact of more than $11 million, according to a press release from Herrity’s office.

“The opening of this facility is a milestone not just for the Springfield District, but for the county,” Herrity said. “It is one example of the many ways we can partner with great community organizations like SYA, in order to provide top-of-the-line sports facilities for residents and at the same time diversify our revenue and reduce the burden on taxpayers with sports tourism revenues. This is the first of what I hope will be many state-of-the-art athletic facilities we will be opening for our residents.”

It also may be the only completed sports facility of this nature for a while. Back in October, the county delayed plans to seek proposals for new facilities after the Board of Supervisors raised concerns that the task force’s site recommendations didn’t take equity into consideration.

The park authority was supposed to draft a new plan that also only included parkland it already owns by this past March, but that hasn’t been completed yet with May now being the target per Herrity’s office.

Since the Patriot Park North project was already underway, it wasn’t delayed by the equity review, which only applies to new projects. Since a plan has not been approved yet, no other completed projects appear imminent.

“The Chairman of the Board of Supervisor’s requested equity study and the desire to review the RFP delayed the County’s efforts attracting partnerships for future facilities by a year,” a spokesperson from Herrity’s office told FFXnow. “Despite that delay, we still have a couple interested parties for some very exciting new facilities.”

The county still has an interim agreement with Alpine-X to develop a downhill indoor ski slope in Lorton. A joint cricket and baseball facility is also being considered by George Mason University, whose Fairfax campus is about 4 miles away from Patriot Park North.

For the moment, though, the nearly $30 million Patriot Park North at 5447 Willow Springs School Road is the crown jewel of the county’s sports tourism efforts.

“This is a magnificent facility. We have facilities all over the county, but a lot of them are not sized for big events,” McKay said. “Why this is important to the county is that we can host those big events…and bring people into Fairfax County from other parts of the area just to see what a wonderful community we have here, what a great place to live, and to play.”

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