2010-12-22 / Front Page

SportsQuest eyes Clover Hill facilities

By Fred Jeter

Several youth sports organizations in the county began using the athletic facilities at the former Clover Hill High School after students moved to a new school last fall. Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer Several youth sports organizations in the county began using the athletic facilities at the former Clover Hill High School after students moved to a new school last fall. Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer SportsQuest hopes to expand to the old Clover Hill High School, much to the ire of several county youth sports organizations. Representatives from the Chesterfield Quarterback League, Chesterfield Baseball Club and Spring Run Athletic Association spoke before the school board last week, expressing their anger over a proposal by SportsQuest to lease the athletic facilities at the former Clover Hill High School building on Hull Street Road. Those organizations already use the facilities for their athletic games and feel SportsQuest is moving in on their territory.

“I think we can coexist nicely,” responded Dr. Steve Burton, CEO and chairman of SportsQuest, during an interview last week.

Burton views the former high school as a potential site for an athletic training center, similar to the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich. It would involve using both the outdoor athletic facilities and the two-story “west wing” of the school building for living quarters, classrooms and offices.

SportsQuest’s main campus is off Genito Road, almost across the street from the new Clover Hill High that opened this past September.

Burton has been involved in “preliminary discussions” with the Chesterfield School Board’s consulting tandem of Dr. William Bosher and Lane Ramsey. Additionally, Burton added that Olympic governing bodies have “joined in review” of his long-range plans.

“We’re looking to be an exact model of Marquette,” said Burton. “In fact, our director of speed-skating, Scott Koons, came from that program.”

The U.S. Education Center in Michigan combines traditional schooling and living quarters with intensive training for boxing, Greco-Roman wrestling, women’s wrestling, weight-lifting and speed skating.

Burton says he would like to meet with the various youth groups such as the CQL, baseball, softball and soccer associations that are using the vacant school’s facilities. Those facilities include a football stadium, baseball and softball diamonds, various practice fields, a full-sized gymnasium, auxiliary gym and tennis courts. Burton noted that all would likely be given facelifts if SportsQuest becomes involved.

“We’d like to get those conversations going,” said Mike Golden, director of the Chesterfield Parks and Recreation Department.

Golden suggested such talks could be strained.

“You’ve got two groups wanting the same market,” he said. “I don’t know if Verizon and AT&T would work out in the same building.”

Golden also voiced concern about facility “overuse.”

“Eventually you could wear them out,” he said. “The answer there might be [artificial] turf.”

Clover Hill was used this past fall as the home gridiron for the Spring Run, Alberta Smith and Crenshaw athletic associations. It was also used for all of CQL’s Super Bowls.

“We hope to play our Super Bowls there forever and ever, and all of time,” said CQL Commissioner Mike Hairfield.

CQL is the umbrella organization for 32 association football programs. This past fall, CQL participation included approximately 3,000 football players and 2,500 cheerleaders, according to Hairfield.

Most CQL football action is held at cramped elementary school sites, ill equipped to handle the mass invasions of players, coaches and fans on Saturdays.

Clover Hill offers more spacious parking and seating, as well as a press box and concessions stand. It is the same field used by the Clover Hill High Cavaliers from 1971 until this past season.

“Preliminary” remains a key word here. Nothing is for certain.

Shawn Smith, the school system’s assistant director of community relations, said “no formal action has been taken” regarding the future of the Clover Hill building and its grounds. The school system plans to use part of the building for a new 21st Century Learning Academy, mostly for technical education (see story on page 2).

“We’re looking at a number of different options,” said Smith. “This is something we may talk about at our next meeting in January.”

There is definitely some friction, and school board members evidently understand the touchiness of the situation because they each made statements following the public comment period.

“There have been no decisions made. We have gotten some ideas and concepts, but there will be a public discourse related to those,” said David Wyman, school board chairman.

Omarh Rajah, who represents the Matoaca District, threw his support behind the youth sports organizations. “I will not ever agree with another entity pushing out our youth sports organizations from the county,” he said.

CQL and other nonprofit youth groups believe SportsQuest will try to recruit their players, and ultimately shut down their organizations. Burton said that claim is completely unfounded.

“We have zero desire or intention to establish a football league that would compete against existing football leagues. That’s not our business model and not our mission,” said Burton.

“No one from those groups took the time to call me and ask about [the Clover Hill proposal],” added Burton. “It’s hurtful they feel that way.”

Chesterfield County gave SportsQuest $4.3 million from its Capital Improvement Program earlier this year. In return, the county will have access to some of SportsQuest’s facilities on Genito Road.

“Burton is getting the red-carpet treatment from the county,” said Hairfield. “SportsQuest doesn’t have to follow the same procedures as the rest of us.”

Burton insists the youth sports groups would not be inconvenienced if his training/ education center comes to fruition.

“We’d be out there in the mornings and afternoons,” he said. “Our athletes would be in school from 3 [p.m.] to 7 [p.m.]. We wouldn’t be using the facilities [on] weekends.”

When told of this, Hairfield didn’t change his tune.

“That doesn’t make me feel any better,” said Hairfield. “I think Chesterfield is buying a pig in a poke. That $4.3 million could come back to haunt them.”

Counters Burton: “This goes to the heart of community misperception. I’m not looking to break a story here. I’m just responding to other people who are screaming ‘foul.’”

*With additional reporting by Donna C. Gregory

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