Manassas Journal Messenger | New parks in the pipeline

By 5 p.m., they’re in their cars, rushing to get home, eating dinner by 6, changing in their uniforms by 7 and are driving to the field by 7:06, if they’re lucky.

These hurried league softball players might arrive at a field by 7:36 p.m. with a little over an hour to play a double header.

Softball leagues around Prince William have scheduling wizards to get hundreds of teams playing seven days a week before night’s darkness begins to fold over center field.

But they could use some more fields. Ones with lights.

The Prince William Park Authority, in response to this increasing demand, is managing the construction of Sudley Park, a 102-acre tract on Va. 234 in Catharpin.

It’s a public-private partnership, with certain areas of development tackled by businesses who’ve donated workers and materials.

The park isn’t open yet and the fields are currently being graded for the first phase of the project — five lighted softball fields.

Phase two, which could be finished sometime next year, includes five soccer fields and two football fields, said R.B. Thomas, Brentsville’s representative on the county Park Authority Board. He is also the project’s manager.

The softball fields should be ready by the spring season, he said, adding that it can be difficult to make a schedule as construction depends on donations.

“It’ll be a struggle to get it done without any appropriation of any public funds,” Thomas said.

Despite the difficult task of coordinating volunteers, the projects — with an original expected completion date of 2007 — could be ready for softball teams in the spring.

About $750,000 of the 1998 general obligation parks bond paid for the Sudley Park land. The Virginia Department of Transportation awarded the county a $376,525 grant to build an access road to the park.

Some debate occurred among county supervisors in May 2002 over whether the county could afford to maintain the park, a cost estimated at $450,000 a year.

They transferred to the project an additional $656,000 in proffer money anyway.

A proffer is a developer’s offer of cash or land to make the development more acceptable to residents of the community.

Thomas said proffers are a good way to keep up with demands created with more people moving into the area.

“There’s a real need for lighted fields for softball because people just can’t get off work and get to a softball game by 6 o’clock,” he said.

The project at Sudley Park is making headway.

“The rest of the project was supposed to be included in the next park bond referendum in 2005, but we’re trying to get it done before that.”

He said they’re still in search of builders who want to make donations.

“It’d be nice to put a contractor group together to put the buildings up,” said Thomas, adding that local quarries pledged to donate stone and they’re looking for fences and concrete.

Thomas’ company, Thomas Engineering, is doing site plans. Widewater Consulting, Dewberry and Davis, Clough Harbor & Associates, Civil Design Services, William H. Gordon & Associates, Rinker-Detwiler & Associates and Geotechnical Consulting & Testing are also donating their time on planning, grading and geotechnical services.

Another slice of the $8 million parks bond is paying for upgrades at Veterans Pool.

Tamara O’Brien, assistant manager at the pool, said they’re expecting a new double slide that deposits swimmers into the main pool.

More fun additions include a giant plastic mushroom with water running over it and large buckets that dump water onto swimmers.

Part of the renovation includes eliminating the baby pool and installing a zero-depth entrance to the main pool that little swimmers can use.

O’Brien said the zero-depth entrance would gradually slope into the water like a beach with no sand.

The pool’s renovations total $1.282 million.

That includes a locker room and community building renovation and new pool pumps.

A park authority employee said contracts for that work should be awarded sometime this month and work is tentatively scheduled for completion in December.

The community building’s gym floor has already been replaced and is in use by the day camp and year round by the public.

The bond money is also paying for retractable awnings over picnic tables at the pool and canopies in the grassy areas surrounding it.

The 1998 bond money also paid for field improvements at Valley View Park, between Nokesville and Manassas off Bristow Road.

Construction there is ongoing on a five-sided building to house score keepers, a concession stand and bathrooms among its five lighted softball fields.

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