Work to retrofit the former tennis courts above Falcon Field to a practice field is nearing completion at Fauquier High.
The contractor has installed the artificial turf atop the compacted rock dust base. The new fencing, however, must be erected before the more than 29,000-square foot facility will be available, emphasized Mark Ott, Fauquier's director of student activities.
An invitation-only opening ceremony will be held in November.
All the Falcons' outdoor sports have experienced numerous canceled practices during the prolonged periods of wet weather in recent years. Many of those missed sessions came with games scheduled for the next day. Now, there will be a safe surface for conducting practices.
The Fauquier marching band, physical education classes and other school groups also will benefit. Ott has said the facility may be rented to community organizations to help fund maintenance.
Last spring, the Falcon softball unit rarely was able to use its home field for preseason practices due incessant rains and poor drainage in spots. Fauquier has a significant edge over all other teams in the area with covered batting cages. However, other aspects of softball ideally require a field for work that cannot be done adequately in the gymnasium.
"Having turf as a base to practice is huge. It's definitely going to help us," predicted Fauquier's softball coach Erika Lamper. "We could do all our throwing, field work and pitching catching up there. We technically could do a full size infield," she continued, with the squad then adjourning to its field for hitting drills.
Lamper pointed out the new area will open up space and time for teams who need the gym floor. "That (new) field is huge," she said, noting multiple teams may use it concurrently depending on their needs. "It's a good thing for the entire school."
FHS girls lacrosse coach Ken McInnis said the new field will be a huge asset, especially with the revised Virginia High School League calendar creating an overlap with field hockey and lacrosse using the same regular practice fields for up to three weeks.
"The turf field will definitely be needed. It doesn't take much rain to turn our practice field into a swamp," McInnis lamented. "That field will have a wonderful impact on all sports and provide us with a way to practice after heavy rains besides the gym."