Our Views: Let there be football

Our Views: Let there be football
The T.C. Williams football team will plays its home games for the 2019 season at The St. James, a new indoor sports complex in Springfield. (Photo Credit: www.facebook.com/pg/thestjames)

Kudos to Alexandria City Public Schools for the creative, mature decision to play the T.C. Williams football team’s home games this fall at The St. James indoor sports complex in Springfield. We think this move is smart on several fronts.

The decision to play the Titans’ home games elsewhere was necessitated by the on-going dispute – and four pending lawsuits – around whether the City of Alexandria has the legal right to install lights at T.C. Williams’ Parker-Gray stadium. As the dispute between ACPS and adjoining neighbors has dragged on, conditions at the stadium have degenerated to the point that the press box was deemed uninhabitable and condemned.

Earlier this year, ACPS officials indicated they intended to proceed with the stadium project, including lights installation, despite the lawsuits. Doing so would have risked squandering citizens’ tax dollars by building something that might have been decreed illegal, forcing a tear-down.

(Judge postpones decision on T.C. lights lawsuit)

One of the lawsuits is slated for trial in February 2020. The judge has not yet determined whether the other three will proceed to trial. Playing the Titans’ home football games elsewhere until the lawsuits are decided was the right decision.

The wrinkle of holding the games at The St. James is both innovative and fun. The fieldhouse where the games will be played is 110,000 sq. ft. The field is composed of “high-grade, athletic turf” according to The St. James website, and there are two private team rooms for the squads to use. The sprawling complex has facilities for everything from gymnastics to ice hockey, and T.C. will be the first area team to use the facility for its home football games.

The primary drawbacks to this arrangement are seating capacity and distance. The fieldhouse seats fewer than 1,000 spectators, half of which the other team would presumably get to use. This, combined with the 6.8-mile drive from T.C. Williams to the complex, means it will be more difficult for students, families and city residents to watch Titans football games this fall.

In the meantime, work on the field itself at Parker-Gray Stadium will proceed, sans lights. This also makes sense, as the field will still be usable even if T.C. Williams is ultimately prohibited from holding night games at that location.