Supervisors endorse $2.9 million plan to rebuild athletic fields at Darden Towe

After six work sessions and multiple town halls, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will hold the public hearing tonight on the $551.5 million total budget for fiscal year 2024. 

The recommended budget for this year included funding over five years for two grass fields at the new Biscuit Run Park. 

“This would be a total project of $3.9 million with design and construction that would take place with those fields beginning in fiscal year 26,” said Andy Bowen, Albemarle’s Chief of Budget.

As it stands, Albemarle currently has nine athletic fields, not including the 32 athletic fields operated by Albemarle County Schools. 

At a previous work session, Supervisors asked if there were options to invest in more fields, including an upgrade of the four fields at Darden-Towe Park. Bowman said staff consulted with the firm Kimley Horn to develop a plan for the Board to consider. 

“We worked to create what we call a Darden-Towe rebuild,” Bowman said. “We would take these fields one at a time and first those fields would be stripped of the existing turf from the field.” 

Under this proposal, there would be over 1,000 hours of additional field time in Albemarle County parks (Credit: Albemarle County)

The fields would then be regraded to ensure better drainage and then the soil would be tested to assess if the right kind of grass would grow. 

“Once that was done we would then have new irrigation and high-performance sod that would be installed,” Bowman said. “And then the final step in the process would be to allow for those fields to rest for one year so they would be taken offline for an extended period.” 

The fields could then be better maintained for long-term use. This time last year, The Board stale-mated on a plan to build fields at Darden-Towe with synthetic turf. (read my story)

Bowman said this grass project would cost $2.9 million, with $800,000 coming from the city of Charlottesville. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway had supported synthetic turf fields at Darden-Towe in part because he said that would allow fields to be more reliable more quickly. He wanted assurance that the scheme would work. 

“I saw that there was high-performance sod, I saw regrading for drainage but also some sort of drainage underneath,” Gallaway said. “While I don’t believe that it would achieve the same thing as artificial turf would have achieved in terms of those items, how can you give me confidence that it will increase it over what we have now?”

Parks and Recreation Director Bob Crickenberger was on hand to answer and said that fields at Biscuit Run will help fill in the gaps while Darden-Towe fields are restored. 

“The fields have not had this level of maintenance in probably 25 years,” Crickenberger said. “They’re just really compacted. We’re not even sure that when they were constructed that the best top soil and material was used at that time. So over the period of time, they’re beat. They’re beat up.” 

Supervisor Ann Mallek had been against the turf fields and said she was grateful for this plan, that would cost the county about $16,000 a year once the upgrade is complete. 

“Once they are restored, we will be making a commitment to maintenance and getting you the staff you need to do the job,” Mallek told Crickenberger. 

Will this come up tonight at the public hearing? Stay tuned!

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the April 26, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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