On the Sidelines with Dan Sousa, VivaLoudoun Editor
So much of Loudoun is so new, so fast, that I enjoy lurking around the hallways and fields of the older schools in the county.
You wouldn’t know it by the past five or six years, where the school was literally busting at its seams until the opening of nearby Woodgrove, but until 1999, Loudoun Valley was historically the smallest high school in the county with under 1,000 students.
After spending a considerable amount of time at Valley for the Cheers Sports and VivaLoudoun Valley Wrestling Duals in January, it was quite evident to me that the school, which I always considered historically charming, was starting to show its wear and tear from nearly 50 years of use, especially in the athletic areas.
The differences are especially glaring when you have the two new schools in the county offering all the top features in practice and game facilities. At Valley the baseball team doesn’t even play its home games on campus as a baseball diamond was never built – the team has been using Fireman’s Field in Purcellville since opening and the means that fans on game nights can’t hop between games like they can at other schools and on practice days the varsity team must bus just to practice.
While there was an expansion of the original Valley athletic facilities in the late 1990s, it in many areas has fallen short. For one thing, the Viking trainer’s office is located in the girls athletic wing – the only such placement among the county’s 12 high schools – which requires male athletes to walk past the female locker rooms to get training.
That isn’t as big as an issue as the Vikings laundry facilities being placed in the boys athletic wing which requires female managers to go into the boys area to use the laundry. Quite simply, while girls in their wing don’t exit the locker rooms unless fully dressed, boys in their wing will often hop between the two locker rooms in less than full gear. Design-wise, not a good situation.
And when I peaked into the boys two locker rooms at Valley, I couldn’t believe that each locker room has exactly one bathroom stall … if I expand on this subject, most of my faithful readers, will no doubt shout TMI! but let’s just say … one toilet and one sink for an entire basketball team, let alone a football team … is way short … it is why many of the athletes at Valley have to go into the lobby to use the public restrooms.
If you have ever shopped for a home built in the 1960s then you know that what was considered as ideal storage space back then (walk-in closet … ha!) was a lot less than today and Valley’s storage issues for athletics are no different. The staff has had to get creative and have even taken over an old public restroom on one end of the aux gym (which was the main Viking gym before the main gym was added onto the outside of the school) and turned it into an athletic storage area.
(And while we are on the subject of the main gym … it is unique in that it was added onto the school without a designated hallway such that to get to the main gym from within the school, you must walk through the aux. gym … I can’t think of any of the other 11 schools where this is the case …)
A designated storage area for P.E. materials is limited by the fact that electrical panels where also installed in the same room and, of course, they require a certain amount of clearance by code, limiting what can be stored around them.
Of course these issues have comfortably been addressed in the design of newer schools with Woodgrove and Tuscarora opening this year with a great storage area attached to athletic director’s offices that dwarf the cramped space the Viking staff works out of.
Just around the corner from the AD’s office is the smallest wrestling room in the county, which is a shame as it is a non-cut sport and more room allows for bigger squads.
Touring the athletic grounds there are some plums for the Vikings such as a huge weight room – you might be able to land a small plane in this baby! The only downside to this great resource is that the room is located in a stand alone building apart from the school … so when Mother Nature dumps a truckload of snow on Purcellville, it is no easy task to get to the weights. Hey, no pain, no gain I say!
Over at the stadium, when 4,000 people showed up in the fall to watch Woodgrove and Loudoun Valley play for the first time ever in football, the fans had to share restroom facilities that have three stalls and three urinals in the men’s restroom … yes, there were lines!
And a peak into the Vikings “shed” off the football field shows another gap in resources as the newer schools in the county have nice team rooms built on the edge of the football stadiums where teams can meet, use restrooms, etc. at halftime. At the older schools, most of them have sheds large enough for the home team to meet in. At Valley this can’t happen as not only is the shed crammed full of gear but even if space was cleared … there is no power or water to the shed … it would be a team meeting by flashlight if anything.
The Vikings staff is not one to complain and they understand that economic times are tough in the county but a lot of people – even some located in the school district’s shiny, almost new headquarters in Ashburn – may not know of the athletic facilities disparity that Valley faces.
Here is who knows for sure … those kids that went and played at Valley last year and are now at Woodgrove this year … they know. And those kids that stayed behind, they surely know as well.
Perhaps the Purcellville community and the Loudoun County Public School District can find a way to help upgrade some of the Vikings facilities. After all, there is only so much charming history that one can take and the Vikes may have reached their limit as their 50th anniversary quickly approaches.