Virginia’s largest high school will play its varsity football games indoors, a first in the state’s football history.
T.C. Williams High in Alexandria will host five opponents at The St. James, an indoor sports performance facility with a regulation indoor football field in Springfield, seven miles away from campus, Alexandria City Public Schools announced Friday.
The Titans will host West Springfield on Sept. 20, Centreville on Sept. 27, Fairfax on Oct. 4, Hayfield on Oct. 18, and crosstown rival West Potomac on Oct. 25.
“I think it will be exciting,” T.C. Williams Coach Jimmy Longerbeam said. “Especially with the proximity to us and the teams we’re playing, it will great. I think it will fill up, and I think it will be good for the community. I know our kids are ecstatic about it.”
The Titans were faced with the choice of either playing all 10 of their games on the road in 2019 or finding a new home field after school district officials closed historic Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium due to safety issues. The school system condemned the field’s press box in 2015 and has expressed concerns over the stability of the bleachers.
The stadium is due for refurbishment this coming school year to construct a new press box, concession stand and permanent lavatories.
The Titans also seldom play Friday night home games because of an agreement made when the school opened in 1965 between city officials and neighbors . T.C. Williams has on occasion brought in portable lights for night games, but the Titans have built a tradition of playing on Saturday afternoons in Norther Virginia football’s final game of the weekend.
“For being the largest high school in the state, and despite having a history of being a football power years ago, they’ve never invested in modernizing their facilities,” said Gregory Paspatis, a 1978 graduate of the school and historian of the Alexandria Sportsman’s Club.
Paspatis added that coaches have lamented the condition of Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium for two decades.
At The St. James, which opened in 2018, the Titans will have state of the art facilities, Longerbeam said. His team participated in a 7-on-7 spring passing league there and came away impressed. It hosts home games for the D.C. Divas of the Women’s Football Alliance.
Laid out for game day, the 110,000 square-foot field house seats 3,000 spectators, general manager Robert Kram said. The Titans will take over the facility two hours before game time and it won’t reopen to the public until an hour after cleanup. The St. James typically divides the field in quarters and rents out each segment for $600 an hour, Kram said.
It will accommodate all the trappings of a regular high school football game, Longerbeam said, including the school’s band, cheerleaders and a concession stand.
“They’ve got everything you could possibly ask for to be able to host a game,” he said. “What an exciting opportunity for our kids.”