Crozet Sports, a youth sports academy founded in 2018 and owned by local residents Justin and Jessica Byrd, has unveiled an ambitious proposal to build an 85,000-square-foot indoor sports facility in Old Trail.
Citing local demand for additional training and educational space in Crozet as well as his desire to create a vital and active community hub, Justin Byrd is passionate about this project. “We know there’s a need in this area for indoor space for sports fields, health programming, and educational programs, and we’re excited to be able to fill that void,” he said.
Byrd circulated an online survey on social media in 2018, asking his fellow residents about the types of programs and services they’d like to see in Crozet and gauging both interest in and willingness to pay for such programs. “We had a huge response—representing about 2,000 people in Crozet—and the feedback was just so positive,” said Byrd. As their plans for an indoor facility began to take shape, Crozet Sports offered summer camps and instructional sports clinics at local schools, and developed a youth basketball program open to all regardless of skill level.
Byrd’s next step was to find a suitable location for the facility, with a primary goal of being close to its intended audience. “We met with county leadership and a lot of sports leaders in the area, and thought about traffic and access,” said Byrd. “After considering a variety of locations, we started conversations with [Executive Vice President of Development for Old Trail Village] Dave Brockman several months ago. This is a type of service that has always been envisioned for the Old Trail community.”
The proposed site is Block 19, a 9.76-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Rt. 250 and Old Trail Drive. In the site’s preliminary architectural renderings, the two-story building is situated 750 feet away from Rt. 250, and maintains a tree-lined buffer along Old Trail Drive. “We’re trying to hide the facility as much as possible so it’s not intrusive from a visual standpoint and also helps preserve the Rt. 250 scenic byway,” said Byrd. “The plan is to keep as much vegetation as possible, and of course we’ll preserve and maintain the stream buffers and trails on the north side of the property.”
The facility will host a plethora of activity spaces, including multi-purpose turf fields, hard courts, and training areas for baseball, softball, and sports performance, plus student-athlete classrooms. There will be a children’s play area and rental space for parties or gatherings as well as for services such as physical therapy, massage, and sports medicine. “It’s going to be an amenity that provides ample space for hosting community events, camps, and weekend sports tournaments in our area,” said Byrd, “and we hope to offer health and wellness programming for adults as well.”
Initial reaction to news of the proposed indoor facility was swift and divided. Some Old Trail residents expressed concerns about increased traffic, loss of trees, and a lack of sufficient infrastructure to support the project. “It would mean more clear cutting, more lights, noise, and traffic,” said Lillian Mezey, a resident of the neighborhood. “Fewer trees mean less sound barrier between 250/64/the lumber mill and our homes, and destroying more and more of the natural beauty. This was never in the Old Trail plans.”
Other residents lauded the potential for greater access to youth sports programming. “There is a desperate lack of athletic facilities [in Crozet] as it is, and we all know how long it takes for the county to build new ones,” said Kelly Gobble, who spent years driving her children back and forth to Charlottesville to use the sports facilities there. “If a private group is willing to make something happen, I think it would be great to have another local option to keep kids active!”
Byrd said the Old Trail location is key to Crozet Sports’ goal of serving local families. “Ideally, we can help reduce traffic impacts as some students and community residents will use bus transportation and interconnected sidewalks and trails to access the indoor facility straight from school, and there is also an opportunity to serve as overflow parking for school events like open houses, graduations, and back-to-school nights,” he said. The facility also plans to host an after-school child care program, and is exploring the possibility of a controlled connector road between the facility and Henley Middle School directly to the east, which could ease traffic congestion at the Rt. 250/Old Trail Drive intersection.
“We’re an inclusive type of community that’s intended to appeal to all ages,” said Brockman of Old Trail. “The Crozet Sports indoor facility is a great fit for the many sports-centric families who live in both the Old Trail Village and the greater Crozet area. Its location adjacent to the schools and close enough for our community of families to be able to walk to the facility just seems to check all the boxes in terms of our vision for an urbanist lifestyle amenity in Old Trail.”
Brockman also said that while the site has always been intended for additional housing, this land use could actually be more environmentally friendly. “It may be a better use of the space to have a nicely-positioned, carefully articulated building that sets back in the woods. There is a recessed spot in the middle of that site that many people don’t realize, and the facility can nestle right in there. It’s a great opportunity.”
To develop Block 19 as Crozet Sports envisions, the company must request a zoning amendment from the county to change the current zoning of the tract from residential to mixed use. The 2015 Old Trail site plan envisioned up to 90 single-family “cluster cottages”—smaller houses on small lots—to be built on the tract. As part of its due diligence, Crozet Sports commissioned a traffic study by the engineering firm EPR to examine the projected impact of vehicular trips generated by the proposed sports facility versus those generated by the 90 residences planned for that location.
The study found that “the Crozet Sports facility is expected to have a similar traffic impact on a daily and peak hour basis [as compared to the current by-right residential zoning].” Daily trips to and from the facility would actually be fewer than from residences (820 vs. 944), though trips during the peak hours between 4 and 6 p.m. would be higher for the facility due to programming in the afternoons. (The report noted that within this time frame, the bulk of the trips would likely take place after 5:30 p.m.)
In light of the recent Crozet Park announcement of its plan to build a 47,000 square foot recreation center, some residents wonder about redundancies between it and the Crozet Sports facility. “The two are serving very different needs,” said Byrd. “They are focused on aquatics and fitness, where our facility is focused on the student athlete, sports conditioning, and educational services and programming to support and serve as an extension of the county public schools’ campus. I coach for and serve on the board of Peachtree baseball, and I care a lot about Crozet Park. There will also be opportunities to partner with the park for potential shared space and programming.”
So far, Byrd and his team are relatively mum about how the indoor facility will be funded, except to say that they are not currently asking the county for money. “We’re pursuing the path of private funding for land acquisition and building construction,” he said. Nor did he offer an overall cost estimate for the project. (As a point of comparison, Charlottesville’s Brooks YMCA is a 79,000 square foot, $19 million facility, and while it does include a large pool area, the Y did not have to purchase its site in McIntire Park.)
“Right now, we have submitted the Zoning Map Amendment application, and next we’ll hear comments back from county staff about the project,” said Byrd. “Then we’ll have the opportunity to request a public hearing with the planning commission, and then go in front of the Board of Supervisors for review.”
Crozet Sports LLC is also currently changing its structure to a nonprofit, to be dubbed the Crozet Sports Community Foundation, in part to be able to provide scholarships and other assistance to members to ensure that programming is accessible to the entire community.
The Crozet Sports project leaders will address the CCAC at its February 12 meeting and will be adding more detailed information to their website, crozetsports.com. “We really hope people will take the time to read about what we’re doing,” said Byrd. “We’re working 60 to 70 hours a week pursuing this effort, and we love it because we’re passionate about the goal. We’re always going to live here, and we want to contribute to this great community in any way we can.”