Aberdeen High School is next in line to get a synthetic turf athletic field, followed, in order, by Joppatowne, Fallston and Patterson Mill high schools, according to priorities announced recently by County Executive David Craig for his final two years in office. The four schools are the last of the county high schools without synthetic turf fields.
“The County Executive wants to try to complete the overall athletic field improvements that he started more than five years ago”, said Bob Thomas, a spokesman for Craig. “Having all high schools with synthetic turf helps ensure long-term less maintenance costs for the school system and county, as well as to ensure all students have the same high quality athletic fields throughout the county.”
The new turf fields and related improvements for the four high schools are planned at a rate of one per year at an estimated cost of $1.4 million each. Funding in future years is subject to approval by the Harford County Council. In addition, the announced timeline for the Patterson Mill field, in the fiscal year 2016, extends past Craig’s term and would therefore be subject to the budget decisions made in 2015 by his successor in the 2014 election.
Aberdeen High School’s synthetic turf field was funded in the fiscal 2013 capital budget. The project is now in the design phase, with construction planned for the spring, said David Goodwin, project manager with the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation.
Craig’s next priority is Joppatowne High School, which would be part of the fiscal year 2014 budget that he recommends to the county council in April. Fallston’s field would be part of Craig’s last budget, recommended in April 2014, for the fiscal year 2015.
Synthetic turf fields are supposed to last eight to ten years before major replacement is needed, said Goodwin, at an estimated replacement cost of $400,000 – $800,000 per field. All of the county fields are still under an eight year warranty, he said.
In addition to the school athletic fields, synthetic turf has been installed by the county at Cedar Lane Regional Park, Fallston Recreation Complex, and Tucker Field in Bel Air. North Harford was the first high school to get a synthetic turf field, in 2008.
Athletic fields at county high schools are maintained under a joint use agreement between the county department of parks and recreation and Harford County Public Schools. All questions posed to HCPS about the synthetic fields were referred to the county.
Craig’s spokesman, Bob Thomas, said that the fields reduce the possibility of injuries to athletes and allow sports to be played year-round with little interruption. More information on synthetic turf fields can be found here. http://www.syntheticturfcouncil.org/.
Results of a recent study of health concerns can be found here.
The study urged athletic directors to limit players’ exposure to high surface temperatures in hot weather. Concerns that the fields are a breeding ground for certain kinds of bacteria were unwarranted, the study found, although researchers noted that the synthetic surface is more abrasive than natural grass, resulting in skin breaks that could be pathways for infection from other sources. According to the Synthetic Turf Council, there are approximately 8,000 synthetic turf fields in the United States.