For the past 49 years, the Upper Loudoun Youth Football League has played its games at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville. Now, it is looking for a new home.
The league announced on Wednesday it would cut ties with the complex, following Play to Win’s decision last month to increase annual fees associated with use of the fields. Kevin Keane, the league’s president, said that Play to Win representatives had assured the league many times that it would have a place to play in the 2018 season, but in March the league was told that “there would be a substantial increase in the annual investment, among other liabilities, required to remain at Fireman’s Field.”
“The number was just too big for us to handle,” Keane said. “I’m profoundly disappointed and sad.”
The Purcellville Town Council last fall voted to hire the partnership of Play to Win and Shaun Alexander Enterprises to operate and manage Fireman’s Field complex and Bush Tabernacle skating rink with the goal of increasing revenue from the town-owned property. Previously—since 1984—the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Service managed the sports facilities.
Last year, the ULYF paid the county $12.50 per player per season to for rental and maintenance costs. Keane said the league had about 700 players signed up last year—creating a nearly $9,000 annual payment obligation.
Play to Win proposed a $70 per hour rental fee at an estimated cost of $12,390 for the season. It also requested the league provide the field paint and sod needed to convert the field from baseball to football. In a joint statement, Play to Win and Shaun Alexander Enterprises said the proposed fees were less than it would cost them to make the field available for football, maintain it throughout the football season and convert it back to baseball in the spring.
During the 33 years that the county parks department managed the complex, it made no rent payments to the town. In November the Town Council awarded a 5-year contract to Shaun Alexander Enterprises and Play to Win to manage the entire 15.89-acre complex. They are contracted to pay the town $120,000 in 2018, with annual payments going up by $10,000 each year until 2022.
According to Keane, Mayor Kwasi Fraser, a leading advocate of the effort to privatize the complex, told league leaders they should have no problem paying the higher price because of its strong financial position.
“Just because we have a lot of money in the bank, doesn’t mean you can gouge us,” Keane said. “We’ve worked for that money. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.”
The league is looking at other locations to play its 2018 season, which begins in late August. Keane said the county’s parks department and a few local high schools have been “very receptive” to the league’s needs. Wherever the league ends up, Keane said that it would not have to pay more than what Play to Win was asking for.
“We think we have things in place,” he said. “I have great confidence.”
The statement by Play to Win and Shaun Alexander Enterprises emphasized their commitments to restore the complex “to its original glory and improving the building, grounds and customer experience.”
They said negotiations with Greater Loudoun Babe Ruth have been more productive.
“We are working towards keeping this youth organization at Fireman’s Field through securing funding through sponsorships and creative ideas that will work within their budget and manpower. We are pleased to announce that Greater Loudoun Baby Ruth will be playing at Fireman’s Field this year,” the partnership stated.
The Purcellville Cannons, in the NCAA-sanctioned Valley Baseball League, also will return to Fireman’s Field this summer.
“The team of Shaun Alexander Enterprises, Inc. and Play To Win, LLC is committed to providing Fireman’s Field as one of the premier ball fields in the region. We are also committed to making it available for the youth of Loudoun County to continue to use and enjoy,” the partnership stated. “However, our team now incurs all the costs of maintaining and operating the facility and we are not in a position to completely subsidize. We will continue to expend time and money to make the facility available, however, we will offer its use at a fair and reasonable price and are amenable to coming up with new creative solutions to ensure everyone has an opportunity to remain at this amazing complex.”