Loudoun Soccer is the largest soccer program in Virginia, but until Saturday, the Leesburg-based academy didn’t have year-round fields to call its own.
Saturday marked the first play of Loudoun Soccer’s new FieldTurf facility, which features two 118-by-74-yard lighted turf fields. The fields are privately owned—meaning a group of friends looking to play a little pickup soccer will be out of luck there—and located across from Leesburg Executive Airport at 19798 Sycolin Road.
The fields’ opening was the culmination of a three-year process, set in motion when David Paul, Jamie Hogan and Matt Schenk, who collectively make up Blue Ridge Sports, speculatively purchased the 12-acre plot of land in 2009.
Soon after, Blue Ridge and Loudoun Soccer developed a partnership, and worked together to design and the first privately owned turf fields in the county. In addition, by the time Loudoun Soccer Park opens completely in March, there will be a Bermuda grass field, bathrooms a concession stand and offices to headquarter the Loudoun Soccer operation.
“The reason turf is so important is because it has year-round play and incredible drainage capabilities,” Craig Koch, Loudoun Soccer’s director of business operations, said.
Koch said there are more than 6,000 players in Loudoun Soccer’s recreational programs and more than 1,000 on travel teams, and they’ve had to use field space in Fairfax County and as far away as Germantown, MD, to train in the winter.
With many practices starting at 5:30 or 6 p.m., that has meant parents living in Loudoun have had to suffer traffic closer to the Capital Beltway, not to mention pay more for gas to travel farther.
“The number of fields required for playing sports in the area hasn’t been able to keep up with the incredible growth of children in the county,” Koch said.
At its first play day Saturday, Ashburn Youth Football was able to play on Loudoun Soccer’s new turf fields, and other organizations will be able to rent time at the park, although that time will be very limited. Koch said 75 percent of the available playing time—until the lights turn off at 11 p.m.
Paul recognized the county’s lack of field space when he joined with his partners in acquiring the land, and he isn’t done trying to solve the problem. Along with property owner Steve Battiston, Paul said he’s working on a development on Evergreen Mills Road, across from the under-construction Evergreen United Methodist Church, of a 40-acre plot of land used for a sports complex with turf fields.
Paul said the plan is to break ground in the fall and have the site ready by spring of next year.
“Whenever there’s a great need, there’s also a business opportunity, that’s the way our country works,” Paul said. “We’ve experienced the pain over a lack of fields here. There was a shortage of fields in Loudoun County and I didn’t see that changing anytime soon. I think that’s a frustration that’s held by a lot of county parents.”
Loudoun Soccer plans to purchase their soccer park from Blue Ridge Sports when it has enough funding, but until then Paul and his partners are more than happy to lease it; after all, all three of them have had children come through Loudoun Soccer.
Now, with Loudoun Soccer Park—and the near future with Paul and Battiston’s new venture—the county’s largest youth recreational sports group will have a place to play day or night, rain or shine, summer and, most importantly, winter.