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User Fees for County Turf Fields May Sharply Rise

by Karen Goff — February 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 5 Comments

Arrowbrook Centre in Herndon is a turf field/Credit: Fairfax CountyFairfax County Executive Ed Long says the county needs $1 million next year to adequately stock its turf field replacement fund.

About half that money may come from athletes who will be paying more to use the county’s synthetic turf fields, including those at South Lakes High School, Herndon High School and Lake Fairfax Park.

The county has made the move towards replacing grass fields with turf in the last several years because turf is easier to maintain and provides more hours of usage because they can be used in inclement weather.

Meanwhile, one Reston family has become leaders in the fight to raise awareness of potential health risks of playing on turf. Fairfax County has said the data is inconclusive so it has no current plans to replace the turf.

The county’s Turf Field Replacement Fund provides $1.25 million annually to fund the replacement of 63 non-stadium fields with turf throughout the county ($300,000 is funded from athletic fee revenues and $950,000 from the County’s General Fund), the county says.

But the fund currently remains $1 million below the needed funding levels to sustain the project, the county said.

In his proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Budget, County Executive Ed Long suggested raising player fees, which would result in $500,000 for the turf field fund.

Proposed rates:

  • Player Fee: raising from $5.50 per participant per season to $9.50 per participant per season
  • Tournament Team Fee: raising from $15 per team per tournament to $25 per team per tournament

These proposed increases are only for those players and tournament teams utilizing rectangular fields (i.e., not baseball or softball fields).

Long said the rise in fees is necessary to generate the additional funds needed to ensure continued replacement of non-stadium grass fields within the community. Long said $500,000 would be provided by the county’s General Fund while the remaining $500,000 would be generated through the fee increase.

Most turf fields have been installed in Fairfax County in the last five years. However, a Turf Field Task Force Report issued by the county in July of 2013 said the average life span of a turn field is about 10 years, so money must be set aside for replacement.

There will be a public input March 9 with the staff from the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services in order to gather input for the Fairfax County Athletic Council as they consider their position on the proposal.

The meeting is from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Pennino Building, 10th Floor (Virginia Room), 12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax.

Long presented his $3.99 billion budget to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last week. The budget includes a suggested 4-cent (per $100 of value) real estate tax increase in order to fund some of the county’s greatest needs, including $2 billion for Fairfax County Public Schools.

The supervisors will advertise a tax rate on March 1, and there will be public hearings on the budget in April before it is adopted by the supervisors.

See more details on the FY 2017 Budget in this previous Reston Now post.

Photo: Arrowbrook Centre in Herndon is a turf field/Credit: Fairfax County

  • Mike M

    These expensive investments despite being “easier to maintain” are somehow still more expensive? And surprise! They need replacement in tens years. So, why did we need “easier to maintain?” Did anyone do a professional cost-benefit assessment in the first place? This is and example I don’t trust FCPS ability to manage anything?

    FCPS costs us more than half of our $4B budget, and it is heavily subsidized by volunteer labor and user’s fees. And still, it is somehow never enough? Why is that?

    The reality is likely that the County probably wants to exert hi-vis pressure to support acceptance of higher tax rates. Also, I know for a fact that in the FCPS, not all students shell our the users fees.

    • Rational Reston

      Chances are no they never did an actual analysis. They just bought the line that the turf industry is selling. Those fields can be very nice (though potentially hazardous to long term health) at first, but they start going downhill very quickly if not properly maintained (and most of the FCPA fields are not maintained). Then they start playing less like grass and more like a clay tennis court.

    • Richard

      Who said anything about Fairfax County Public Schools? The article suggests this is a county-managed effort, not FCPS. FCPS students are just footing the bill (if not paid through some fund, probably, like boosters or the like).
      Although I’d agree there’s probably a higher chance of knee injuries on the artificial turf, if the comment about health effects relates to cancer, there’s no evidence to back that up. Join the folks who think they’re getting cancer from electrical power lines and cell phones.

      • Mike M

        Um, I did. Let me explain. The fields mentioned in the article about which I commented were school fields. You might be fooled by say, Defense items that are stuffed under the Intel or Energy or Veteran’s Affairs budget. I’m not. You may bee fooled by school items that show up outside the school budget. But I’m not. Am I saying there are school items that are not under the school budget? Yes.

  • Nyla J.

    I vote we cover Fairfax County Executive Ed Long in honey and then roll him in those little synthetic turf bits.

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