Local Commentary

Editorial: Baseball, Symphonies & More Swimming Ideas

As imaginations run wild concerning proposals for development of the 36 acres ceded to the City of Falls Church by Fairfax County as part of the water sale deal in 2014, one viable opportunity lies in what was a hot-button issue over that property two dozen years ago. It was in the summer of 1991 that a proposal was offered to generate new revenues to the City through the construction of a multi-use athletic facility that could become home to a minor league baseball team.

The Falls Church City Council voted to create a volunteer citizen task force to look into the viability of the idea, and it came back after a few months with a unanimous recommendation in favor of moving ahead on the idea. It died when a sharply-divided City Council voted 4-3 against that recommendation. At the time, the land, which then as now was owned by the City of Falls Church and School Board but not technically in the City limits as it is now, was being called “the most valuable real estate on the eastern seaboard” because of its pristine untapped potential located right next to the West Falls Church Metro station.

While so much has changed, on this issue so much has stayed the same. The potential still exists, and is not deterred by the agreement that 75 percent of the land must be dedicated to an educational use.

There are at least three developments that would fall clearly within the definition of “educational use” that could not only provide world-class facilities for the school system, but also represent a major potential for revenue generation, and are especially viable because of the land’s walking distance proximity to the Metro station.

The first would be an athletic facility, a baseball park or multi-use facility, that could be marketed as an ideal venue to all sorts of regional and national playoff and summer uses. Every year, the Babe Ruth and Little League playoffs select locations that can double as summer vacation sites for the families of the teams that come from all over the U.S. What better vacation destination in the U.S. is there than Washington, D.C.? Tourism is already one of the region’s biggest “industries,” and for much healthier reasons (i.e. historical, educational) than mere amusement park destinations, for example.

The second would be a top-shelf performance venue, along the lines of the Strathmore in Montgomery County, that could be rented to symphonies, entertainers and theater companies who would see the value of a new facility located at a Metro station.

The third would be a swimming facility that would be designed as Olympic grade that could also be rented to host a myriad of competitions, including college tournaments and competitions leading up to the Olympic Games.

All this would be in the “educational use” part of the development, and could be complemented by a first-rate hotel on the commercial 10 acres.