Capital One Park is winding up for another year of baseball.
The season will kick off earlier this year, with Marymount University squaring off against Hampden-Sydney College on Feb. 17. The Arlington-based Catholic university’s baseball team will join the Georgetown Hoyas in making Capital One Park its “home” stadium for 2024.
Georgetown University’s team will make its local debut on March 1 with the first of three games against Fairleigh Dickinson University, which is visiting from New Jersey. The Hoyas are also scheduled to play Cornell, Maryland University, George Mason University, George Washington University and other Division 1 teams at Capital One Park.
Designed for collegiate and high school games, the stadium will also again host the entire season of the nonprofit Potomac Summer League. The college-level, eight-team D.C. area league is set to start practices during the first week of June.
Other highlights of Capital One Park’s upcoming season include two college tournaments in May, with the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Tournament taking over on May 9-11 and the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament following on May 19-25.
This season will also bring some new amenities, including more bleacher seating, a merchandise kiosk, locker rooms and a rentable “party deck,” according to Capital One Center, the mixed-use development emerging at Capital One’s headquarters in Tysons.
Planned for 6 million square feet, the 35-acre campus already consists of 3 million square feet of commercial development, including a performing arts venue in Capital One Hall, The Watermark Hotel and The Perch skypark. The Tex-Mex restaurant Ometeo opened in December and is slated to be joined by Sisters Thai, Stellina Pizzeria, Ox & Rye and Starr Hill Brewpub this year.
George Mason University is poised to complete the construction of a functional cricket field at its Fairfax campus by the end of this summer and a new ballpark by 2025.
During a virtual town hall meeting on Monday (Jan. 29), GMU staff and Sanjay Govil, owner of the Washington Freedom cricket team and a founding investor in Major League Cricket (MLC), outlined the project and listened to feedback from local stakeholders.
The project is still in the planning phase, but GMU’s governor-appointed Board of Visitors gave the university the green light last month to start talks with Washington Freedom about a ground lease for a multi-purpose ballpark.
“I think it’s a great win-win situation in terms of giving us what cricket has to offer and giving GMU what it needs for a state-of-the-art baseball facility,” Govil said during the town hall.
As part of a multi-year plan to redevelop and enhance its three main campuses in Fairfax, Manassas and Arlington, GMU proposed consolidating the athletic facilities on its 190-acre Fairfax West Campus, which is northwest of the Ox Road and Braddock Road intersection and currently houses the GMU Field House, several fields and courts.
In November 2022, Mason announced it would collaborate with MLC to study the possibility of a multi-purpose facility that could host international-level cricket games and the university’s baseball team.
Marvin Lewis, assistant vice president and athletics director at GMU, said the athletic facilities on the west campus are outdated and lack essential stadium features like a video board and lights that he noted are common at peer institutions.
“They have video boards, they have lights, and so it makes it even harder to recruit and compete at a high level without those amenities at our ballpark,” Lewis said.
Because GMU is a relatively young institution, the athletics department doesn’t have the “donor capacity” to raise the funds needed to upgrade its facilities, including the new multi-purpose stadium, he added.
“So, to make improvements, we have to think creatively and utilize partners in the community to help us meet our strategic objectives,” Lewis said.
As part of its agreement with GMU, Govil said Washington Freedom would fully fund the new stadium’s construction.
According to a presentation shared by the university, the proposed stadium will accommodate 7,000 to 10,000 spectators on a 15-acre site between Braddock Road and Campus Drive, adjacent to the parking lot.
The possibility of thousands of new spectators traveling to watch cricket matches and baseball games alarmed many town hall attendees, who expressed concerns about traffic and questioned the university’s approach. Read More
(Updated at 10:30 a.m. on 2/6/2024) After more than a year of impassioned and often acrimonious public testimony, Reston Association will drop plans for pickleball courts as part of the renovation of Barton Hill’s tennis courts.
At a meeting on Jan. 25, the RA Board of Directors voted to remove pickleball courts from the scope of the renovation, which had inspired passionate testimony from both pickleball lovers and neighboring residents concerned about safety, security, parking and the noise associated with the burgeoning sport.
Board director Jennifer Jushchuk, who proposed removing pickleball from the renovation, said she was impressed by the level of public engagement on the proposal.
“I feel like we’ve pitted members against members, and I don’t think that was ever the intention of the board that approved it,” she said, adding that she hopes RA can determine the scope of pickleball needs in the community.
“I just don’t think we got there with Barton Hill,” Jushchuk said.
Most board members said they were concerned about the disproportionate impact of pickleball on the surrounding community.
“I have to be sympathetic to the needs of the people who actually live in the community,” said director Travis Johnson.
Some of that debate continued at the Jan. 25 board meeting.
Residents like Laura David, who lives on Harper Square Court, pressed the board to look for more appropriate places for pickleball that wouldn’t disturb neighboring communities with noise.
“Let’s think outside of the original box we all had, which was to look at Barton Hill,” David said.
Others like Hayes McCarty, a Reston resident for more than 50 years, said RA’s board should take into account noise studies it commissioned that found average noise levels created by pickleball fall below limits enforced by Fairfax County’s noise ordinance.
“The association paid a lot of money for these studies. These people are experts, and I think we have to listen to what they have to say,” McCarty said.
As the plan moved through approval process, RA scaled back plans for pickleball at the facility, which currently consists of four unlit tennis courts built in 1985 at 1901 Barton Hill Road.
Last September, RA reduced its plan for the facility from six to four dedicated pickleball courts and two dedicated tennis courts, removing blended lines that would have allowed both tennis and pickleball uses. Now, all of the courts will be for tennis.
Some board members were dismayed with how the decision was rolled out.
Board director Margaret Perry said she wants RA to brainstorm alternatives for other pickleball locations before voting against its inclusion in Barton Hill. Her motion to delay the vote to the board’s March meeting did not gain traction, and she ultimately voted against removing pickleball from the project.
(Correction: This story initially said Margaret Perry voted for removing pickleball.)
Board president John Farrell said he was particularly concerned with how some board members justified nixing pickleball, noting that neighboring residents often have concerns about the addition of any new facility or program to the community.
“No way in hell am I going to give the neighbors a veto over serving the other 63,000 people [in Reston] and I’m disturbed that I heard some of my colleagues suggest that that’s the fundamental analysis,” Farrell said. “I hope that’s not the case.”
Construction is underway to convert a warehouse in Tysons into an indoor pickleball facility.
The Pickleball Club of Tysons is now accepting membership reservations on its website after receiving the necessary approvals from Fairfax County to begin work at 8520 Tyco Road last week, according to co-owner Alesya Semukha-Greenberg.
With construction expected to finish this spring, the business is currently aiming for an April 1 grand opening.
“I’m most looking forward to [the club] being full all the time and getting the right person to run it and making everyone happy,” Pickleball Club of Tysons co-founder and CEO Marc Greenberg told FFXnow.
Located in an industrial park just southeast of the Route 7 and Dulles Access Road interchange, the recreational facility will feature six dedicated pickleball courts available for lessons, open play, competitive leagues and other events.
Like many other players, Greenberg developed an enthusiasm for pickleball during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a surge of interest in the half-century-old sport. He was introduced to the racket-based pasttime about a year and a half ago by fellow Pickleball Club of Tysons founder and chief operating officer Tarlika Amin, who raised the idea of opening her own club to address a lack of indoor courts in the area.
“There really is nowhere to play during the winter time,” Greenberg said. “In fact, the only people sort of creating courts are the counties and the country clubs, so those are two opposite ends of the spectrum. The county’s are public courts, and they’re good, but they’re outdoors and there’s a lot of noise issues, and the country clubs are very expensive and they take away from tennis courts. So, there are very few middle market clubs and that’s where I thought we could make a difference.”
As a real estate agent who lives in McLean, Greenberg agreed to help identify possible locations, and he immediately focused in on Tysons, though he ultimately looked across Northern Virginia, particularly inside the Capital Beltway (I-495).
“Tysons was my number-one choice,” he said. “The odds weren’t great, but then I found this space and the size was right, and most importantly, the column spacing was right so that we could put the courts in.”
The space presented some challenges. The club needed to get a special permit from the county to allow the pickleball courts, and since the warehouse only had heating, not air-conditioning, new HVAC units have to be installed — the project’s biggest expense.
Still, the industrial setting has benefits as well, saving the facility from the concerns about noise that have turned many residential neighborhoods against outdoor pickleball courts.
“There won’t be a noise issue on the outside because it’s 6-inch cinder block on the outside of the warehouse,” Greenberg said, acknowledging that indoor noise levels might still be a challenge.
While the Fairfax County Park Authority continues to add outdoor courts, the Pickleball Club of Tysons will eventually have some company in meeting the demand for indoor facilities. The new business Down the Line Sports Center will open two locations this year: a 10,000-square-foot facility in Fairfax City and a 50,000-square-foot, 18-court complex in Annandale.
Greenberg says it’s “great” to see that other facilities are in the works, since he believes “the demand is there.” The Pickleball Club of Tysons team hopes to expand to other locations in the future, but right now, they’re focused on making sure the Tyco Road one works.
Finding the right site is the biggest challenge to building indoor pickleball courts, according to Greenberg.
“You have the appropriate column spacing and you have the appropriate parking and the ceiling height,” he said. “So, you know, I think you can have a dozen of these in Fairfax County, but the land and the real estate is really not conducive to it, so it’s hard to do.”
Screenshot via Pickleball Club of Tysons/YouTube
Northern Virginia has lured another D.C. sports team across the Potomac River.
The team was based at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in the District last year after bouncing between the Nats academy, Shirley Povich Field in Rockville and Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, Maryland, for the 2022 season.
The Hoyas won 30 games in both of those seasons, a first for the program, and a pre-season coaches’ poll projected it to finish fourth this year in the NCAA’s Division I Big East Conference, according to the team.
“We are really excited to play at Capital One Park this spring as it is an amazing first-class venue that will provide our fans a great experience,” Hoyas Baseball Head Coach Edwin Thompson said. “We look forward to providing a great product on the field and we know with Capital One Park’s amazing amenities, our fans will enjoy the gameday experience. We look forward to opening day at our new home this spring!”
Capital One Park opened at 1820 Dolley Madison Blvd for its inaugural season at the end of March 2023, hosting over 200 high school and college-level baseball games. The stadium features a synthetic turf field and can seat 650 people in fixed and bleacher seats.
The stadium is part of Capital One Center, the financial corporation’s headquarters campus in Tysons. Slated to be supplemented at some point by an urban park, the facility is intended to be temporary until the mixed-use residential and office buildings approved for the site can be constructed.
Capital One Park’s 2024 season will kick off in February. A full schedule is expected to be available this week, according to a spokesperson for Capital One Center.
The news that the Hoyas will make Tysons their new home came just a month after Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis announced plans to relocate the professional hockey and basketball teams to Alexandria, though whether that vision comes to fruition remains to be seen.
An impromptu race at McLean High School has gained some serious online traction.
University of Virginia track star Alahna Sabbakhan was visiting the school at 1633 Davidson Road for a straightforward workout, but then, a friend of her boyfriend claimed that he could beat her in a 400-meter race, despite not being a runner.
“He refused to believe that a woman could beat him in a race,” Sabbakhan said in a video that has been viewed more than 11 million times since she posted it on TikTok on Dec. 17.
A sprinter and middle distance runner, Sabbakhan says in the video that, while she didn’t have anything to prove, she agreed to the challenge only because she was already planning to run 400 meters for her workout. When he invited his parents, family and friends to watch, however, she started wondering “what the heck did I get myself into?”
After keeping even with the unnamed man for about 200 meters, Sabbakhan kicked her pace into another gear for the second half of the race and won without seeming to break a sweat.
“I finished hard, because that’s what you do as a track runner, and this was also one of the reps of my 400 workout, so I’m just doing my workout,” she said.
Sabbakhan added that she finished the 400 meters in 57 seconds, “which is pretty good for practice.” Her personal best time of 54.67 seconds was achieved at the Atlantic Coast Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships last year, according to her UVA athlete profile.
In an interview with UVA Today, UVA’s Office of University Communications publication, Sabbakhan said she initially regretted sharing the video on social media, where it has started to gain a foothold on other platforms.
She noted that she didn’t intend for people to “jump on” the man and they’re “on good terms” after talking about the viral video.
A native of D.C., Sabbakhan graduated from St. John’s College High School before attending UVA, where she’s now a senior.
A female D1 track star Alahna Sabbakhan raced a man who insisted he could beat her. The result is going viral pic.twitter.com/7gx0UVuThn
— Track Spice 🌶️ (@trackspice) January 6, 2024
Reston Association’s Board of Directors deferred a decision last week on how to handle the planned addition of pickleball at Barton Hill’s tennis courts to Jan. 25.
The decision on Thursday (Dec. 14) comes as the organization grapples with community concerns about noise from the new courts and enthusiasm from pickleball players seeking more locations to play the burgeoning sport.
The association is choosing between two designs for the project: six dedicated pickleball courts with four courts that have blended lines on the existing tennis courts at 1901 Barton Hill Road or four dedicated pickleball courts with no blended lines on the existing courts.
RA plans to install Acoustifence — noise blocking material — to manage sound in the area, adding $75,000 to the initial price tag of $770,000.
With the assistance of consultant Kimley-Horn, RA completed two sound studies in July and November. The latest study found that noise from pickleball play is below Fairfax County’s noise ordinance for continuous sound — sound that is constant throughout observation — and 100 decibels for impulse sound — single or multiple sounds characterized by a sudden rise in noise.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell any neighbor that what they’re hearing is not valid or isn’t reality,” Aaron Heustess, a senior civil engineer with Kimley-Horn, said. “All I can do is point back to the data, which says if you look at the meter and you watch what’s happening, it’s not impacting the noise.”
According to Heustess, most of the studied sound was dominated by traffic noise.
Board director Laurie Dodd noted that the county’s noise ordinance is designed more for average noise levels, rather than impulse noise levels.
Heustess also pointed out that the sound produced from a pickleball whacking a racket is significantly shorter than other sounds and has “low energy from an overall average standpoint.”
“The impulsive nature of pickleball noise does not drive the average noise level for that particular use,” he said.
He also noted that the county’s noise ordinance has an exception for recreational uses between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
The bottom line, Heustess concurred with director Irwin Flashman, was to “keep it as far away from people as you possibly can.”
Meanwhile, RA’s community survey found that 15% of its members played pickleball within the last year, and 12% of members would’ve played in the last month but were limited by the availability of courts. Others said they were concerned about overcrowded courts and limited hours.
If approved, scheduling for the Barton Hill pickleball courts and the soccer field would be staggered to address concerns about parking needs. There are currently 28 existing parking spots at the courts, including ones across the road at the soccer field.
In a separate matter, RA worked with community members to draft a memo asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to consider installing a crosswalk on Barton Hill Road.
Further engineering and study is necessary before a permit application is submitted.
(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Pickleball devotees will soon have new places to play in the Fairfax area.
The Fairfax City Council voted last night (Tuesday) to grant a special use permit to Down the Line Sports Center, which will build an indoor pickleball facility to replace the vacated CVS in Courthouse Plaza (10390 Willard Way).
The 10,000-square-foot former pharmacy will be transformed into a dedicated pickleball facility with three full-sized courts and two half-sized courts, according to the application submitted by Down the Line owner Jenni Bae.
Though an opening date hasn’t been set yet, Down the Line is already preparing to extend its reach with a second, larger facility in Annandale that’s also anticipated to launch next year.
“This is an exciting new chapter for Down the Line Sports Center, and we are thrilled to bring our first location to the heart of Old Town,” Bae said. “Our vision is to create a space where patrons of all ages can come together, play, and connect. We’re grateful for the support of the City Council, Fairfax City Economic Development, and the Façade and Interior Improvement Grant program for making this dream a reality.”
Provided by Fairfax City Economic Development (FCED), the grant program reimburses 50% or up to $20,000 of the costs for businesses to get established or expand in the city.
A tennis player who got into pickleball during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bae told FFXnow that the original plan was to open an indoor pickleball facility in Annandale. But then, she connected with the FCED and saw an opportunity to open a smaller center more quickly.
“We recognized it as basically a beneficial opportunity for both Fairfax City and our business,” she said.
Because the Fairfax City facility will be relatively small, Down the Line hopes to offer social events to the community in lieu of pickleball tournaments and leagues, which require at least six courts, according to the application.
The company said it’s open to partnering with the Old Town Fairfax Business Association and the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce on future events, while also participating in festivals and other outdoor city events.
In a press release, the FCED lauded the facility as “a significant leap towards invigorating Old Town Fairfax and fostering a sense of community.” Fairfax City has six pickleball courts at Green Acres Center (4401 Sideburn Road), including one that’s indoors, and four at Van Dyck Park (3720 Blenheim Blvd), but this is the city’s first dedicated, indoor pickleball complex.
Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read credited local pickleball players at Green Acres Center and former city council member Janice Miller with advocating for more playing options in the city to support the growing — and sometimes polarizing — sport.
“We have delivered a solution that works no matter the weather,” Read said. “That value is made greater by the fact many residents can walk there or take the free CUE bus.”
According to Bae, Down the Line hopes to open the Fairfax facility this winter, followed in the second half of 2024 by the Annandale facility.
Located at 4311 Ravensworth Road, the 50,000-square-foot Annandale center will feature 18 permanent indoor courts, seven golf simulators and a sports bar. The company envisions it as a future destination for both amateur and professional players in the D.C. region and beyond.
“Our goal is to bring in huge events that we’ve never been able to have in this area before because no one has ever been able to provide the indoor space that we can provide,” Bae said. “…We will become a destination center where people will fly in from other states to play in our tournaments…They’re going to bring more business to the restaurants, to the hotels and to everything in the Annandale area because of our center.”
Rendering via Down the Line Sports Center
A top-tier Italian soccer club is making a play for Tysons.
AC Milan, which claims to be the “most popular Italian football brand” in the U.S., announced last month that it has chosen Fairfax County as the site of its first youth training academy in North America.
Offering programs for kids aged 5 to 17, AC Milan Academy Virginia will launch next spring at 8300 Boone Blvd, Suite 500.
“AC Milan Academy Virginia is another piece in the consolidation process of the AC Milan brand on a global level,” Maikel Oettle, the club’s chief commercial officer, said. “The launch of the AC Milan Academy project in the US territory attests to our commitment and our contribution to the promotion of football in North America, through which we aim to export the values of AC Milan worldwide.”
Founded in 1899 by some Englishmen living in Italy, Associazione Calcio Milan operates 16 training academies in Europe and Asia. It made its first foray into North America this summer with a series of junior camps in Canada.
To introduce itself to the area, the club is bringing a junior camp for kids aged 6 to 17 to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. Registration is currently open for the camp, which is aimed at potential Academy players and will take place from Dec. 6-9.
Led by Davide Battistini, who has also served as head coach at the Vietnam and Saudi Arabia academies, the Virginia academy will have programs for U6 (ages 5-6) through U18 (ages 17-18). Participants will work with both specialized professionals and local technical staff who will support their “personal and sporting growth,” the club said.
The academy’s creation stems from a partnership between AC Milan and Black & Red Pumas, which is named after the club’s colors and top sponsor. Vienna resident Dario Scatena founded the company as an AC Milan fan.
“I am very pleased with this collaboration that will bring the colours and values of AC Milan and Italian traditions to the American territory,” Scatena, the CEO of Black & Red Pumas, said. “I am very confident that the excellence and the AC Milan Method will bring great benefits, firstly for the young players in their personal growth, and then for American soccer. This is a family for me, and I look forward to both girls and boys feeling part of this great family and growing in every aspect with its values.”
Not even a last-minute scramble to replace stolen jerseys could derail McLean High School’s boys’ volleyball team from its path to a championship.
The 10-player team won the Northern Virginia High School Boys Volleyball League playoffs with two 25-point sets on Oct. 28, beating a Lake Braddock Secondary School team to cap off a perfect 17-0 season.
John Tamashiro, head coach for the McLean team, attributes its success to a combination of luck, skill, team chemistry and sheer perseverance, as players battled through tough competitors, injuries and other obstacles, including the theft of required jerseys the night before a match.
“I personally have been playing the sport a long time, and you can always have that cocky guy on the team that brings down the team,” Tamashiro told FFXnow. “We didn’t have any of that this year, and I think that was the main thing that all these boys had good personalities and were very talented, and so I think we need that combination to do what we did.”
Even as the McLean team celebrates its championship, the Northern Virginia High School Boys Volleyball League (NVHSVL) has its sights set on an even bigger prize: inclusion in Fairfax County Public Schools as an official varsity sport.
Though the Virginia High School League supports varsity boys’ volleyball, FCPS dropped the sport as a student activity in the early 2000s, according to NVHSBVL organizers.
“Fairfax County Public Schools started an eight-team, club-level program [around 2004], hoping that it would grow in popularity and become a varsity sport,” Michael Markovic said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t grow and the club-level league was canceled by FCPS.”
Supporters instead launched the Northern Virginia High School Boys’ Volleyball League, which offer programs for high school and middle and elementary school students in Fairfax County, Arlington, Loudoun and Alexandria.
The teams are coached by volunteers and take the names of specific schools, though not all players have to attend that school. The McLean team, for example, includes a private school student and two players from the Springfield area, along with several McLean High School students, according to Tamashiro.
The league had tried to regain club status for boys’ volleyball in Northern Virginia about 10 years ago, but the region’s student activities directors failed to get enough high schools to sign on, NVHSBVL director Rob Baily says.
A decade later, momentum for volleyball — which is already available in FCPS for girls — has grown nationwide to the point where league leaders believe that official, school-sanctioned teams for boys would now be successful.
The number of male students participating in high school volleyball has grown by 40% since 2017, making it the fastest growing high school sport in the U.S., according to USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis.
Interest has grown locally as well, according to the NVHSBVL, which says participation has more than doubled since 2012. The league’s 2023 fall season involved a record 49 teams totaling more than 500 players, compared to just 12 teams when Markovic joined in 2012.
“Forty-nine teams is a lot of schools that would potentially have volleyball programs now that they don’t have right now,” Tamashiro said. “So, basically…this league is really the equivalent of the high school boys volleyball league in school sports.”
Gaining varsity status would give players consistent access to school gyms and equipment, including poles and nets, Baily says. The league currently reserves space through FCPS’ community use program, which lets outside groups use school facilities when they’re available.
He says a school-sanctioned program would also boost participation by “less advantaged boys,” since they won’t face as many out-of-pocket fees or need to arrange their own transportation to matches.
“It provides a great non-contact alternative to football and as a varsity sport it will create more student-athletes with better time management and healthier lifestyles,” Baily said.
FCPS didn’t comment by press time, but according to Baily, Superintendent Michelle Reid has asked to see data showing current registration and future interest by the end of November so varsity boys’ volleyball could be considered for her next budget proposal, which will be released on Jan. 25.
Regardless of what happens with the sport’s status in FCPS, Tamashiro anticipates 2024 will be another strong season for the McLean High team, which only had two seniors who will graduate this school year.
“It was a crazy, crazy season,” Tamashiro said. “But again, we got a lot of talented boys. A lot of them are going to play at the next level. A lot of them will end up playing in college.”