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Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.

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Economy blamed for complex closure

For six years now, the Virginia Sports Complex in Caroline County has been host to more than 200 baseball tournaments.

Between March and November since 2004, more than 150,000 baseball fans cheered and booed from the stands.

After this weekend, when the facility hosts its last baseball tournament, those stands will be empty and it is unclear for how long.

Owners John Henry Attkisson and Greg Haley, both from Hanover County, announced this week that the complex will close on Monday.

A statement posted on the company’s website Wednesday stated, “it is with a great deal of sadness that we find it necessary to close the Virginia Sports Complex effective Sept. 13, 2010. All scheduled tournaments, events and activities have been canceled and all deposits collected will be refunded in full.”

Attkisson cited the economy as part of the reason for closing.

“The decision to close was a very difficult one,” he said by email today. ”Our dream was for as many children as possible to experience playing on professionally-built and maintained fields, fields that most children would rarely have the opportunity to play on.”

Attkisson said they will continue to maintain the property, which sits on 113 acres of land off of U.S. 1 in Ruther Glen. It has eight baseball fields and an indoor facility which has eight batting cages, four volleyball courts, two basketball courts and other areas that could be rented for private events.

He said there are no immediate plans to sell the site, but they are considering their options.

Director of Operations Phillip Cobb said that 700 baseball teams, with players ranging in age from 8 to 18, have played at the complex every year. He said tournaments were successful and always full.

Cobb also stated that the huge sports complex that opened in Virginia Beach earlier this week by John Wack, who also built the Fredericksburg Field House in Spotsylvania County, had no effect on their decision to close. Nor did the proposed soccer complex that is planned for the New Post area of Spotsylvania.

The closing of the sports complex could also have an impact on jobs and tourism in the county.

Cobb said that the facility was run by seven full-time employees and hired more than 30 seasonal or part-time employees during the year. Attkisson said the economic impact to the county is estimated at $12 million to local hotels and restaurants.

The closing will also affect the Caroline school system’s athletic program, which used the facility during its baseball, softball and basketball seasons, Cobb said.

Caroline County Administrator Percy Ashcraft said he feels terrible for those affected by the closing of the complex.

“ County government will do everything it can to work with VSC leadership to market the property with hopes of restoring the facility to a vibrant recreational opportunity for our community,” said Caroline County Administrator Percy Ashcraft. ”Hundreds of young men and women have improved both their skills and their lives generally through sports activities at VSC and we are grateful for the vision shown by the owners.  I wish them well as they work through this difficult time in their business activities.”

Attkisson said that while the owners, employees and the county will move on, it is the children who will have the biggest loss.

“Many of life’s greatest lessons can be learned by playing the great sport of baseball—how to win with grace, how to lose with dignity; playing together as a team, learning the importance of respect, honor, courage and discipline,” he said. ”These are just a few of the characteristics that we lived and promoted at VSC.  The children are the biggest losers as a result of having to close VSC.”

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