Chris Avery and Steve Battison became aware of the acute shortage of athletic fields in Loudoun County a few years ago through their children's involvement with youth sports. Rather than wait for the county to develop more fields, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
Avery and Battison joined with other partners to build the Evergreen SportsPlex on property Battsison's family owned on Evergreen Mills Road, just outside Leesburg's town limits. The 44-acre facility has four turf fields that are used for a variety of sports, including soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, football and even cricket.
The sportsplex opened for business almost two years ago, in October 2013, managing director Chris Bourassa said.
In providing a site for tournaments, games, summer camps, practices and training sessions, the athletic facility meets a growing need and helps alleviate some of the demand on publicly owned fields, Evergreen SportsPlex spokesman Tony Canonico said.
The turf on all four fields has been certified by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Canonico stated, adding that only about 50 turf fields worldwide and 25 to 30 in the U.S. have achieved that certification.
"Soccer players love it, the refs love it, and we've gotten compliments from field hockey and lacrosse players as well, because the turf plays as close to real grass as anybody's ever played on," he said. There is a critical need for soccer fields in Loudoun County, which Canonico said has become a hotbed for the sport.
"If you look at some of the talent that is coming through - the level of play of some of these clubs - Loudoun and Fairfax have teams that are nationally ranked," he said. "We're really happy that we can help grow the sport."
Although the facility generates most of its revenue by renting fields for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, it is expanding its services to include such features as a pavilion and adventure course that are popular sites for birthday parties and corporate gatherings, Bourassa said.
Businesses, church and scouting groups, and other organizations use the adventure course - which includes ziplines, rock climbing walls and a ropes course - for leadership and bonding activities, Bourassa said. In August, the principal of Belmont Station Elementary School arranged for her staff to use the course for a daylong "Olympics" experience, he said.
"It allows us to offer team building, [an opportunity to] get away from the office and spend some time getting to know the person in the next cubicle or classroom," Bourassa said.
The sportsplex has partnered with several different organizations that use sports to help develop youth, Bourassa said. Affiliates include the Evergreen FC soccer club and Evergreen Lacrosse.
Over the summer, the facility entered into a partnership with Inova Loudoun Hospital, which also sponsors Evergreen FC and Evergreen Lacrosse, Canonico said. The hospital brings its mobile health vehicle and bloodmobile to special events, and has conducted educational sessions for coaches, managers and players on sports health issues such as concussions and heatstroke, he said.
The sportsplex also hosts the Play to Win football academy, featuring what Canonico called "a who's who of Loudoun football coaches," to give youths some extra football training.
"We think that sports are a real effective way to keep kids out of trouble, keep them on the right track, keep them motivated and in school," Bourassa said. "Very few will play in college or professionally, but they're all going to do something, and we're trying to create an environment that helps them be the best they can be."
The sportsplex has multimedia classrooms that are used to provide tutoring for some of the youths, and for SAT and ACT training classes, he said.
"While we primarily have sports clubs and leagues, we're using that to help develop these kids," he said. "We're trying to use the facility to not only provide field time, but also to add value to the people that come and use the facility."
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of LOUDOUNER magazine.