By Judy Guse-Noritake, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
A community with good parks and adequate sports fields signals a city’s strong values and commitment to the health and welfare of its citizens, both young and old. Never before has this been more important in Alexandria than now, as the city school board prepares to move forward with the Parker-Gray Stadium project at T.C. Williams High School.
As we continue to rapidly transition from a suburb of the nation’s capital into a thriving, dense urban city, planning for athletic fields and park development needs to be accomplished right along with meeting the increasing need for more public school capacity. Investing in fields and parks now is imperative for the quality of our high school and our future as a city.
I served on the parks and recreation commission for more than two decades, and during that time, I helped lead a professional effort to document the city’s shortfall in meeting the need for athletic fields for both our children and adults. We have made some headway in the last few years with the construction of several new fields, conversion of some grass fields to artificial turf and the installation of lights in a handful of locations. But these efforts have not come close to closing the gap in the demand.
The need continues to grow primarily due to there being more children in the city and a greater percentage of them playing sports. The same little feet rapidly overfilling our classrooms also need places to play formally and informally. This is a challenging but healthy reality for our vibrant, historic city. Alexandria has much to offer and increasingly, young families are looking to locate and stay here to raise their children. That’s a good thing. But it means that many more kids are playing soccer, baseball, football, rugby, lacrosse, field hockey as well as track and field, even at very young ages.
Providing facilities for sports and recreation is something we want to encourage and is a health imperative for Alexandria. We want our young people to develop lifelong patterns through early participation in active play and team sports. We know it keeps them healthier and happier both now and over the long term as adults. Team sports undeniably teach invaluable lessons that will benefit our children later in life both at home and in the workplace.
Now that our city is virtually built out, with land becoming a very rare and expensive commodity, it is increasingly imperative that we fully develop our existing fields. This is one critical reason I’m in full support of the plan to modernize the Parker-Gray Stadium at T.C. Williams, the stadium of the much-storied Titans.
The proposed field rehabilitation at T.C. will include replacing the press box, expanding the concession stand, building much needed restrooms, replacing the sound system and, yes, installing stadium lights. Lights mean we can make much better use of the high school’s only field. Teams will potentially use the field past 5 p.m. in the fall. Practice times can be extended into the early evenings as dusk comes earlier. And for the first time in more than three decades, our Titans can play under lights, something most people in this town would love to see again.
We are the only public high school in Northern Virginia without a lit stadium, without the camaraderie and excitement of night games for the school’s track, football and soccer teams. It is time for the citizens of this community to step up and give our kids the same high school experiences as the rest of Northern Virginia.
This field project has been in the planning stage for nearly five years. It has been carefully considered and, if built, will be a tremendous resource for generations to come. The time has come for us to lend our voices in support.