Updated 5:45 p.m. — Field lighting supporters told ALXnow the interests of neighbors and soccer players aren’t necessarily competing and share some overlapping concerns management of the fields.
Earlier: A plan to bring new lights to athletic fields around Alexandria saw a clash of supporters — who say the lights are necessary for extending play hours — against homeowners concerned about the ramifications of new late-night activity next door.
Last week, the Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the plan for new lights, which will now go to the City Council on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The plan is to eventually install new outdoor lighting at five fields around the city, with those lights phased in as the budget and construction timetables allow. Three of the fields could be lighted as early as FY2023:
- Francis C Hammond Middle School, 4646 Seminary Road
- George Washington Middle School, 1005 Mt. Vernon Avenue
- Jefferson Houston K-8 School, 1501 Cameron Street
The other two, Patrick Henry K-8 School and Recreation Center (4643 and 4653 Taney Avenue) and Eugene Simpson Stadium Park (426 East Monroe Avenue), can’t be lighted until 2024 and 2025 respectively. The aim of the lights is to extend the usable hours of some of the city’s more overcrowded fields.
There were around 20 speakers at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1, with a fairly even split between parents and local soccer enthusiasts with the Alexandria Soccer Association (ASA) sharing their support for the lights and neighbors concerned that existing issues like littering and public urination will only get worse with the lights creating extended hours.
Those in favor of the lights said they will help relieve some of the problems around local teams fighting for a handful of evening spots.
“[The lights] provide more access for healthy places to play, thus positively impacting the community,” said Jim Hogan, a coach with the ASA. “As one of 200 volunteer coaches who supported over 180 teams this fall, location and times for mid-week practice are very hard for working parents when they are 4, 4:30, or 5 p.m. start times. Evening times are so popular we cannot provide every team and program with a 6 p.m. start time.”
Hogan said there are parents who want to help volunteer on local teams, but can’t because the practice times are too early.
Terry Androus, a manager with the ASA, said the lights are a matter of boosting public safety for local kids.
“I support the addition of lights to all of the fields being suggested,” Androus said. “Youth sports is a critical component of raising healthy and productive citizens. Kids will be somewhere after dark; it’s better to have them in a structured environment on a field rather than wandering around places where trouble may find them. Let’s provide a safe place to play after dark: it just makes sense.”
But neighbors abutting the fields where lighting is proposed said there are unresolved issues in the city’s plans. Carter Flemming, President of the Seminary Hill Association, said neighbors currently experience loud music, trash, and other nuisances from adults playing on nearby fields and are concerned that adding more hours will only make the problems worse.
“Hammond Middle School is in our boundaries and we are quite familiar with the issues surrounding this field, even without lights,” Flemming said. “while I know [Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities] asserts approval tonight is only about putting up lights, I think it’s incumbent upon you to address the ramifications of such lights. To say this [special use permit] is only about constructing some 60-foot tall light poles is to ignore the reality of what those light poles will mean to surrounding residents.”
Flemming pointed to a memo from Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities (RPCA) in October that acknowledged that there are important issues raised by neighbors near the Hammond Middle School, but said those are operational issues and not a result of field lighting.
“And yet, RPCA is asking to add lights without having any plans to address those known issues,” Flemming said. “No developer could come before PC and say ‘I have submitted a [special use permit] to build four walls, 60 feet high, but I do not have to address any other issues that might arise from my project.'”
Neighbors shared testimony at the meeting of trash left littered around fields after soccer games, sharing photos of debris-strewn sidelines despite assurances from city staff that the fields were checked and cleaned before every school day.
Others said that, during and after games, players at the fields use nearby yards and streets as public urinals. Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, acknowledged that while two of the fields are slated to get publicly accessible restrooms, the others do not have them.
“Restrooms have been a hot topic,” Browand said. “As part of capital improvement, we do assess where restroom use could be. Those are things that we’re looking at as we move forward and do improvements.”
Flemming and other neighbors said they would support the use of lights on the fields for youth sports only.
“Adult recreation creates an entirely different situation from youth sports and should be directed to [other fields] that do not abut residents,” Flemming said.
Another concern, one shared by some on the Planning Commission, was that the several organizations all connected to overseeing the fields could make it more difficult for residents to find any one department to connect to and hold responsible for maintenance issues.
After the public comment, Browand clarified that the fields would only but lit for pre-arranged sporting events scheduled by permit, giving the city some level of control over who plays on the fields and who is responsible if trash is left behind.
Planning Commissioner David Brown drilled down on issues of accountability for the fields, saying he sympathized with concerns that — when issues do occur on the fields — residents will find city departments all pointing the finger at each other.
“As I understand it, the city is responsible for trash collection,” Brown said. “The Recreation and Parks folks are responsible for monitoring use and making sure the lights are turned off. During the school day, Alexandria City Public Schools is responsible for monitoring the facilities, possibly with the assistance of the police. This is a lot of cooks in this stew. What I would like is reassurance that at least insofar as this process has been ongoing with a number of fields for quite some time: is it operating smoothly so that when something goes wrong, it is promptly fixed?”
Despite raising these concerns, Brown said that ultimately the Planning Commission vote is not about whether or not the lights are a good idea or whether the city is doing a good job of managing the parks currently: only whether the project meets the zoning requirements.
Others on the Commission said they recognized neighbor complaints, but saw the lights as achieving a greater good.
“While I’m sensitive to what sounds like adults being irresponsible neighbors, I think it’s important to not discount the need to provide for adult recreational activity,” said Planning Commissioner Melissa McMahon. “Adults tend to work more than they should and tend to have a lot of stress. We might not focus as much as adults on growing our own social skills and managing to get along with one another the way we teach our children those skills, and team sports are one of our best tools for that.”
Ultimately, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 in favor of the lights.
As local students head back to school, the Alexandria Soccer Association is launching pre-season practice sessions this week.
The season starts on Tuesday, Sept. 13, but pre-season practices are scheduled to start tomorrow (Tuesday, Aug. 23).
“Ball Mastery participants work on soccer skills in a productive and fun learning environment with professional coaches,” the local sports league said on its website.
The program is open to PreK-2nd grade students.
“Pre-season Ball Mastery is an accelerated season to prepare kids for the kickoff of the Rec League,” the website said. “Open to PreK-2nd graders. In-season Ball Mastery provides an extra practice per week for PreK-2nd graders who are interested in getting extra touches on the ball.”
Registration is $135 per player.
A separate program, the Alexandria Growth Program (AGP), is aimed at students from 3rd-6th grade.
“The Alexandria Growth Program (AGP) bridges the experience between the Recreational League and Academy programs for 3rd-6th graders,” the website said. “The AGP is for players interested in trying out for the Academy in the future OR for kids looking for an extra practice + game per week in a professional environment. AGP focuses on individual and small group development drills to increase kids’ technical skills and understanding of the game.”
The AGP program has sessions that run from $180 per play to $480.
Rec League — are you ready to get back on the field NOW?! Join us for pre-season Ball Mastery to get 6⃣ practice sessions in before your season kicks off.
Sessions begin this week! Learn more and get signed up: https://t.co/HkAiM3sVD0
— Alexandria Soccer (@AlexandriaSoc) August 22, 2022
Photo via Alexandria Soccer Association/Facebook
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Today’s weather — “Sunny skies during the morning hours. Scattered showers and thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. Hot and humid. High 96F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%… Considerable clouds early (in the evening). Some decrease in clouds late. Low around 75F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
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Alexandria midfielder Eryk Williamson was reportedly disappointed to not make the U.S. Olympic team, and instead found gold in the U.S. National Team’s dramatic 1-0 upset over defending champion Mexico in the in the Concacaf Gold Cup Final.
Williamson, a member of the state championship-winning T.C. Williams High School varsity soccer team in 2014, played most of the game Sunday in Las Vegas. This is the second straight tournament final won by the U.S. against Mexico, following their 3-2 win in June’s Concacaf Nations League Final. Williamson didn’t play in that game, however, as he was aded to the roster for the U.S. in the Gold Cup in July.
Williamson has played midfield for the Portland Timbers since 2018. As a Titan, Williamson was named First Team All-State, All-Conference and All-Region. He went on to the University of Maryland, where he was named Big Ten Midfielder of the Year.
A big congratulations to Eryk Williamson on his call up to the #USMNT for the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup!
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) July 1, 2021
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne to receive Lifetime Valor Award — “In recognition of his retirement, we are pleased to honor Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with a Lifetime Valor Award at this year’s Valor Awards. Join us virtually, on June 22nd, to honor Sheriff Lawhorne’s 43 years of law enforcement service to Alexandria.” [Chamber ALX]
West End Business Association hosting 1 p.m. conversation with Mayor — “Take this opportunity to ask questions and connect with Mayor Justin Wilson about how he would continue to serve the city of Alexandria.” [WEBA]
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Vaccine Equity Clinic on Route 1 in Fairfax County offering free transportation — “The Health Department and Fairfax Connector have partnered to offer free transportation to those who want to get vaccinated at the clinic, located in the former Safeway site at 7451 Mount Vernon Square Center in Alexandria. Fairfax Connector’s Free Vaccine Shuttle will run along Fairfax Connector’s line in that region.” [Fairfax County]
Annual Waterfront Commission walk is today — “The walk will be in person starting at (5 p.m. at) the intersection of Oronoco and South Union Streets and will proceed south to Robinson Landing. The walk is anticipated to end at 6:30 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]
Fire Department conducting community meeting on restructuring today — “The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) will implement an organizational restructure, effective Saturday, June 12, 2021. The goals of the changes are to improve service efficiency and response times across the City; reduce cost; increase safety on the roadways; and improve response preparedness for specialty teams such as the Technical Rescue, Hazardous Materials, and Inland Water Rescue teams. AFD Representatives will present the upcoming changes to the community and answer questions.” [City of Alexandria]
Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with numerous thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with still a chance of showers. Low around 65F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]
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Northam Remarks on a Year of Coronavirus — “For far too many people, life will never be the same again. It has been a hard year, but I have been encouraged by the strength of Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth.” [Patch]
Beyer Remarks on a Year of Coronavirus — “A year ago today Virginia’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed at Ft. Belvoir in Fairfax County. I remember it like it was yesterday, a frightening time. We’ve lost so many people since then, as the country endured misery and hardship. But we are going to beat this virus.” [Twitter]
Plant-Based Cottage Bakery Coming to Del Ray — “Soon, Del Ray residents and visitors will be able to follow their noses to a new place for flaky croissants and more: Le Petit Grump. The cottage bakery is starting small – really small, in fact. Owner Mel Gumina’s 437-square-foot home in Del Ray is the place where the magic has been happening for months as Gumina perfects her pastries in anticipation of a springtime opening.” [Gazette]
Capital Bikeshare Comes to West End — “West End: Another @bikeshare station has been installed…on Taney Ave., near Howard St. More stations on the way…” [Twitter]
Art Adorns Alexandria Trails in New Public Art Initiative — “Artist Cristina Fletcher spent Thursday moving ladders and hanging colorful birds from trees along Holmes Run Trail in Alexandria’s West End. She is one of three artists installing public art exhibitions on Alexandria park trails as part of a grant program from the Alexandria Commission on the Arts.” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s Weather — “Sunny skies. High 54F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph… Mostly clear skies. Low 37F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Youth Soccer Coach — “Soccer Shots blends soccer, education, and fun into high energy 30-minute sessions to kids ages 2-8 throughout the DC/MD/VA area. You’ll laugh. You’ll break a sweat. And you’ll go home at the end of the day knowing that you made a difference.” [Indeed]
Famed Jewish Songstress Dies in Alexandria at 97 — “Singer, songwriter, guitarist and accordionist Flory Jagoda worked hard to preserve the music and language she inherited from her Sephardic Jewish ancestors in her adopted American home. Named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002, she died on Jan. 29 at age 97 in Alexandria, Va. at a long-term memory care facility, according to an obituary placed by her family.” [NPR]
Virginia American Water Identifies Source of Water Main Break — “The issue on S Whiting Street was identified to be a broken valve which has been repaired. We are slowly restarting service and it may already be on for some customers. We anticipate it will be fully restored within two hours.” [Twitter]
Alexandria Mindfulness Educator Training Police — “”We think officers could have some benefit in wellness course training. This course introduces strategies to regulate emotional states in a trauma-sensitive way, planting the seed of mindfulness, with the hope that they will continue to learn about it more in-depth later.” [Zebra]
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Today’s Weather — “Mostly sunny skies (during the day). High 52F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph… Mainly clear (in the evening). Low 26F. Winds NW at 10 to 20 mph.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Youth Soccer Coach — “Soccer Shots blends soccer, education, and fun into high energy 30-minute sessions to kids ages 2-8 throughout the DC/MD/VA area. You’ll laugh. You’ll break a sweat. And you’ll go home at the end of the day knowing that you made a difference. It may be tough but coaching our children will be one of most rewarding things you ever do. Apply today to be our friend and their hero.” [Indeed]
“Alexandria Soccer returned to play in fall 2020 and is operating under guidance from the City of Alexandria and the local health department,” the organization said on its website. “While we are thrilled to offer our tournament series at this time we will continue to operate with the safety of participants as our number one priority.”
The tournaments are scheduled for:
- Boys and Girls ages 13-19 — March 6-7, $900-$975 per team
- Boys ages 9-12 — March 13-14, $775-$850 per team
- Girls ages 9-12 — March 20-21, $775-$850 per team
Registration for each tournament closes a month before the tournament.
Alexandria Soccer has a list of guidelines aimed at mitigating the threat of COVID-19, like one spectator per participant and no physical contact between players like handshakes or high-fives. While some steps can help reduce the likelihood of COVID-19’s spread, sporting competitions like soccer are still considered a potential risk.
“If a tournament is cancelled due to COVID-19 please note that full refunds will be provided,” Alexandria Soccer said. “With this risk free policy we encourage you to apply early so that schedules can be created in a timely manner. (If your team needs to pull out of the tournament for any reason, the regular cancellation policy will be observed.)”
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Beyer Says Trump Trashed George H.W. Bush For Being Shot Down in WWII — “Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a ‘loser’ for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers).” [Twitter]
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Alexandria Soccer Association Starts Nine-Week Course — “The Alexandria Soccer Association introduced ASA School+, a nine-week educational program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, according to a news release.” [Alex Times]
Story Time: Sheriff’s Deputy Reads ‘Ten Apples Up On Top’ — “We would not, could not resist another Dr. Seuss classic! So this week Deputy Sahar Sherzai is reading ‘Ten Apples Up On Top.'” [Facebook]
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Beyer Calls Out Trump Directive to Census Bureau — “A clear violation of the United States Constitution, which spells out in the 14th Amendment that ‘Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States.. counting the whole number of persons in each State..'” [Twitter]
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New Job: Youth Soccer Coach — “Prior soccer experience is not required. We only require the passion for positively impacting children’s lives through the love of sports and fitness. Valid driver’s license and access to personal vehicle Must be at least 18 years of age.” [Indeed]