County Bill Pushes for Turf Football Fields

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For decades playing football games on mud soaked fields at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md. was part of a proud legacy — old fashion grid iron tradition.

But on Sept. 29, the Wildcats are scheduled to face off against  the Suitland Rams on a brand new artificial turf field and according to Northwestern Head Coach Bryan Pierre, “it has been a longtime overdue.”

Northwestern High School and the Suitland Rams will play on an artificial turf field for the first time on Sept. 29. (Photo by Hamil Harris)

“It is great for the kids to have a nice facility. It is something that we have been looking at for a long time,” Pierre said. “We are getting athletic trainers as well.”

Northwestern is the first of four Prince George’s County public schools getting artificial turf this school year for the Fall season. The other schools are Bowie, Charles Flowers, and Eleanor Roosevelt High Schools.

Turf has been installed at four other county schools in recent years. Dr. Henry Wise High School in Upper Marlboro, Md., Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md., Oxon Hill High School, and the new Fairmont Heights High School in Hyattsville.

“Contingent upon site and permit requirements, the installation of a typical turf field and field lighting project is between $1.5 -$1.7 million,” said Prince George’s County Public School spokesman John White. “There are numerous benefits of having turf fields installed at our high schools…”

The benefits include, the continuity of a playing surface, the ability to use the field all year and in inclement weather and the ability to schedule events back to back with no need for maintenance.

“The new fields will benefit our students with durable playing surfaces and we expect long-term maintenance costs to be reduced,” Kevin Maxwell, CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, told the AFRO.

Maryland State Del. Jay Walker (D), a former Howard University quarterback and Maryland State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D), first introduced legislation to have turf fields in the county years ago but their bills failed.

While county officials say turf is safer and more cost effective and easier to maintain than grass, critics charge that players running up and down on a field made of cryogenically broken up rubber granules poses a new health risk

But, during the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session, the bill called for 21 Prince George’s County high school football fields to be upgraded to artificial turf across Maryland in high schools and the region, Prince George’s County would be the last to get it.

While getting turf fields is a big deal the new lights on the field are an even bigger deal because for years only High Point High School in Beltsville, Largo High School and Friendly High School in Fort Washington, Md. had lights so most schools played their games at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoons.