County budget includes turf field for new DHS stadium
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 13:10

The new stadium under construction at Dundalk High School should now include an artificial turf field after money for the project was included in the Baltimore County budget announced last week. photo by Roland Dorsey

Long campaign to secure turf field bears fruit

by Bill Gates

    Ever since it was learned the new Dundalk High School would include a stadium — and maybe even before it was confirmed — principal Tom Shouldice has campaigned for it to have an artificial  turf field instead of grass.
    Never say persistence doesn’t pay off.
    The Baltimore County budget released last week includes $8 million for turf fields at Dundalk High, Towson High and the Catonsville Regional Park.
    For most people, those two lines in the budget press release were the first  inkling a turf field for Dudalk High was even a possibility.
    “I was extremely surprised,” Dundalk High athletic director Justin Nash said last week.
    The stadium is nearly complete and was due to have grass seed planted.
    That meant the field may not have been ready for use until the 2016-16 school year (grass takes some time to become established).
    “I have been working on this for three years and did not want to get anyone’s hopes up,” Shouldice said. “Every time I saw [County Executive Kevin Kamenetz], our County Council members, [Kamenetz aide] Bryan Sheppard or our Annapolis delegates, my request has been to complete this project with a turf field.
    “We organized a lot of subtle support for this.”
    No timeline for the start and completion of the project was available as of press time.
    Councilman John Olszewski Sr. (6th District), said the money for the turf field came from cooperating and working with county government.
    “I’ve worked very hard over the last 16 years to bring good amenities to our three local high schools,” said Olszewski, who will not be seeking re-election in the fall.
    “This is something I’m proud of, and I’m happy for the people who live in this district.”
    Putting a grass field in the Dundalk High stadium would have presented problems other than just the time for it to become established.
    To meet standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the school would have been unable to set up a sprinkler system for the athletic field.
    (LEED certification earns “green” credits: essentially, the more “green” a project, the less it costs in the long run.)
    Saving water is an example of a “green” activity. Irrigation of lawns and fields is not considered environmentally friendly.)
    The stadium, as people driving past the Delvale Avenue school will have noticed, is on the top of a hill.
    “It would be nothing but dust or mud depending on the weather,” Shouldice said. “A good grass field would be hard to establish and expensive to maintain.”
    Olszewski said adding the money for a turf field was a “very late discussion.”
    “It just made sense,” he said. “A brand-new high school, new stadium, you should put turf on the athletic field.
    “It’s a really nice way for me to go out.”
    Even when he’s no longer in office, Olszewski said, he will continue to advocate for the area and work on getting turf fields for Patapsco and Sparrows Point high schools.
    “I intend to follow through and make something happen,” he said.
    Patapsco’s stadium, Betty Edwards Field, opened in March.
    Sparrows Point’s stadium, First Mariner Field at Sparrows Point, opened in 2004, and a turf field has been a longtime goal for Pointer athletic director Russ Lingner.
    First, however, Dundalk High’s turf must become a reality.
    “Now, we need to keep some pressure on the County Council to pass the budget and not cut this item from the budget,” Shouldice said.