It Takes a Community to Build A House – A Ribbon Cutting at Long Park

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Provided by Prince William Parks, Recreation & Tourism

Prince William Parks, Recreation & Tourism (DPRT) held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 18, to celebrate the opening of the Virginia Soccer Association (VSA) league clubhouse at James S. Long Park in Haymarket.
The long-awaited clubhouse is product of a shared vision between the Virginia Soccer Association, the Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism, and the Board of County Supervisors.  A delegation of park staff, VSA staff and supporters, along with county Supervisors, served as a testament to that shared vision and commitment.

How it Came Together

The handsomely designed building is 2,000 sq. ft. overall, with three public bathrooms accessible from the outside; roomy office and storage space inside, along with one additional bathroom. Architectural plans for the league building began in 2018. Design consultations, permitting and documents, and the engineering procurement process moved steadily forward, until 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Everything just stopped. Everyone just waited.
Then in February 2021, as the first glimmer of normalcy broke through the fog of the pandemic, a small group of dedicated masked stakeholders braved the cold weather, and with shovels in hand, broke ground on the building site. Construction began to move forward, once again.
The building ultimately cost $1.1 million to complete, along with a $75,000 expenditure to the Service Authority to connect water and sewer lines from the highway into the park, then to the building site. The parks department saw this as an opportunity to make further improvements to the park as a whole – accessibility to all the fields, the paving of parking areas – were included in project.  The Virginia Soccer Association invested well over $1million to replace three older synthetic turf fields with a state-of-the-art product to demonstrate their commitment to the safety of players, and to maximize field playability.

Testimony from the President of VSA

Mike Bachman, President of VSA, was unable to hide his enthusiasm at a “job well-done.” The Virginia Soccer Association has 50 full-time staff (office and coaches) who now have a clubhouse to work out of. “With 50 regular teams and 54 travel teams, totaling 2,400 players of various age groups, our staff needed a place to work from,” Bachman explained, “ and our coaches needed someplace to plan and develop our players talent.” Many of their players go on to play college soccer in Divisions I, II and III, as well as with academies in Europe and at the professional level. (Griffin Yow, #22, plays Forward for D.C. United.)

Remarks by County Supervisors

Board of County Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler is a long-time resident of Gainesville and lives close to Long Park. When asked about the new building, Chair Wheeler shared, “For me it’s a completion of Long Park in so many ways. I’ve spent so many years where this kind of facility was so necessary. This building is the crowning jewel to the park. I remember going past here when there was a tilted sign that read “Governor’s Clean Award, 1990” and this was all trees.”
Chair Wheeler’s two daughters played for VSA in their Prince William school days, and she believes it made a great difference in their lives. The Chair told the gathered crowd, that when she mentioned to one daughter, now an adult, that she was going to a ceremony for the new VSA Clubhouse and it had bathrooms, her daughter responded, “Real ones?” Chair Wheeler continued, “To have these kinds of amenities when the pandemic hit, to have somewhere to go that is comfortable and well lit, it’s these kinds of public/private partnerships that make Prince William County a great place to live.”
Supervisor Candland reminisced about where Long Park was when he had children playing with VSA, “The long traffic lines to exit the park after a game, the dusty roadways, and yes, the lack of real bathrooms, were really a problem. This building is a tremendous example of, when you have a shared vision, where you can get to.” The Supervisor went on to say, “This ribbon cutting celebrates two things – the opening of a facility for the generations to come and symbolizes the end of the process that got us here. I believe our relationship with VSA should be the model for sports partnerships.” Supervisor Candland made special note to thank both the past and current Board of County Supervisors for their commitment to Long Park, and to supporting the needed infrastructure “out here on the western end.”

Remarks by the Executive Director of VSA

Matt Lacey, Executive Director of VSA, recalled a meeting he had four and a half years prior, with Seth Hendler-Voss (Director of DPRT). He went to the meeting carrying a small piece of paper on which he scribbled his vision of a world-class soccer facility at James Long Park. Lacey quickly learned that Hendler-Voss shared that same vision, and they got to work.
Matt Lacey believes that a clubhouse brings a community together. Players will socialize more and build friendships for life. “This is a house, and a house is where you raise children. Where they come and grow,” Lacey continued, “They come back to that house and give back to the community.”  Matt said that he has a 6-year-old playing soccer now, who is coached by seven ‘kids’ who played with VSA. “ That’s the real power of it.” Matt said, “This (building) allows us to build players and coaches who will come back to their community, give back, and become leaders. This building symbolizes a home for our kids, our coaches, and a home for our families.”

Remarks from the DPRT Director

Parks Director Hendler-Voss said, “The completion and opening of the VSA Clubhouse is the gold standard for what sports tourism looks like. With the combined hard work of Supervisor Candland, Chair Wheeler and the support of the Board of County Supervisors to make James S. Long Park a showcase facility for that vision for Prince William County.”
Director Hendler-Voss continued: “The power of our parks and outdoor space has become amplified over the last few years. The pandemic has heightened an appreciation and awareness of the outdoors as a safe refuge for spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. It’s what I call the Power of the Green. When you talk about economic recovery, also think about the other Power of the Green – the literal financial resources that facilities like Long Park and sports tourism bestow on a community. Projects like this not only provide for our youth, but they help with our overall economic and financial stability.”

About Mr. James S. Long

Mr. James S. Long (1934-1977) was by all accounts, a man of vision – an entrepreneur, philanthropist, lauded for his charitable work and skilled leadership. James S. Long Park will continue to be a shining example of how one shared vision can enrich of the lives and well-being of an entire community for generations to come.
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