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Park Authority passes on sports complex proposals but still open to ideas

One of the baseball diamonds at Patriot Park North, Fairfax County’s first official sports tourism development (via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube)

The Fairfax County Park Authority is still scouting for its next sports tourism project.

After opening Patriot Park North, a $28 million baseball and softball facility, near George Mason University last spring, the park authority put out a call in June for potential private partners on a new, multi-sport tournament complex that it hopes could benefit both residents and visitors.

However, the park authority announced on Feb. 15 that the four development pitches it received were all ruled out for further exploration at this time due to a lack of funding or the proposed site being deemed unsuitable.

“[The] Fairfax County Park Authority Board and stakeholders reviewed the submissions and found them not viable,” an FCPA spokesperson said. “…The [entities] submitting the proposal[s] did not have the funding for the project or the locations proposed were in established parks and would impact existing park amenities including golf courses, existing fields, garden plots or areas with historical significance.”

The submitted proposals haven’t been made public, but in its request for interest (RFI) issued in June, the county suggested Mountain Road and Halifax parks in Centreville, Rock Hill Park in Chantilly, and Patriot Park East near George Mason’s Fairfax campus as possible sites.

Those four sites are all undeveloped parcels owned by the park authority, which has identified them in approved master plans as potential future athletic fields. The RFI also gave respondents the option of identifying other locations that could host a multi-sport tournament complex.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized a Sports Tourism Task Force in 2017 that was charged with studying how the county could “take advantage of this market in order to diversify its tax base” and how any resulting revenue could be used to support resident-focused facilities.

In a report released on Aug. 31, 2020, the task force cited outdoor field complexes as the county’s biggest need and the facility with the greatest economic potential. Other recommended priorities included an indoor hardcourt, an indoor track facility, an ice complex and a natatorium with a pool for swimming and diving competitions.

The study, which was conducted by a consulting firm and supported by the FCPA, identified 17 sites that could host at least one of the recommended facilities, though the vetting process drew criticism from some county supervisors for not considering equity or environmental impacts.

The task force estimated that an outdoor rectangular field complex at Mountain Road could generate over $61.7 million of economic output, including nearly $4.5 million in county tax revenue. An indoor court and track complex at Baron Cameron Park in Reston could bring in $72.6 million, though it would have higher construction costs.

Designed, built and operated by the park authority, Patriot Park North became the county’s first official sports tourism project, featuring four full-size baseball diamonds and two smaller diamonds.

Though none of the submissions for a follow-up gained traction so far, the park authority says it’s still open to new ideas. Unsolicited proposals can be submitted to the county through its Public-Private Educational Facilities and Infrastructures Act (PPEA) process.

“With Requests for Interest, if or when a project becomes viable, additional input will be sought through the Park Authority’s outreach processes,” the FCPA said.

Screenshot via Fairfax County Park Authority/YouTube

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