Montgomery Blair High School's Online Student Newspaper
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Aug. 9, 2009

Ceremony held to mark the completion of Blair's new field

by Ava Wallace, Online Editor-in-Chief
Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown presented a $563,000 grant for Blair's new turf field to county officials at a ceremony held on Thursday at noon. The grant, which signified the completion of the new field, was presented to County Executive Isiah Legget at the function held outside of the main office.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown presented a $563,000 grant for Blair's new turf field to County Executive Isiah Legget, county officials and a member of the school board on Thursday at noon. Ava Wallace
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown presented a $563,000 grant for Blair's new turf field to County Executive Isiah Legget, county officials and a member of the school board on Thursday at noon.
Several county officials attended the ceremony, as well as many Blair cheerleaders and football players. Chris Barclay, Silver Spring representative on the Board of Education (BOE), began the ceremony by describing how important the new turf is to Blair. "Students at Montgomery Blair High School have a wonderful new sports facility, right in their backyard," he said.

Legget mentioned how Blair sports teams will benefit from the turf in many ways. "This synthetic turf field at Blair Stadium will help increase playing time, reduce field maintenance and provide a durable and consistent playing surface for our student athletes," he said.

The county installed the new turf through a statewide program called Open Space, which invests in facilities such as Blair's field. Blair was selected for the program because students as well as the community use the field. "We have a lot of great open space. Dual use maximizes the use of the program," Brown said.

Construction of the new turf took two months to complete. "There was one month where the bulk of the construction took place," said Jay Childs, of the County Department of Parks. The turf is about one acre, and features new fences and field goals. All of the $563,000 presented at the ceremony was for the construction of the turf. The only maintenance the turf requires is grooming, to keep the infield "grass" at a height of 1/4 - 1/2 inch, according to Childs.

The new field can be used in any playable weather condition, meaning anything but lightning, without jeopardizing athletes' safety. This will result in fewer game delays and less rescheduling, promises Mary Bradford, County Department of Parks Director. Another benefit is that the field never needs to "rest," according to Bradford. The field will be able to withstand day after day of use without being damaged. This reliability means that Blazers are not restricted from using the field in any way, for fire drills or sports.

Childs mentioned that students are also free from turf-related injury. Childs said that because of the nature of the turf, athletes can wear cleats or sneakers while playing. Unlike other turf surfaces where students may develop ankle or foot problems if they wear the wrong shoes, Childs assured that the only difference between grass and this turf is the turf "plays a little faster."

Program Open Space began in the late 1960s and has since preserved more than 350,000 acres of parks and recreational land. Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin spoke about the field at the ceremony. "This project exemplifies the significant benefits of Program Open Space from increasing the aesthetics of our schools and communities to providing much needed recreational facilities for our youth," Griffin said.

Griffin also announced that Walter Johnson will be the next high school to receive a turf field, Blair's turf being second in the county to be installed after Richard Montgomery's.

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  • Kathy (View Email) on August 11, 2009 at 4:55 AM
    It is wonderful that Blair is getting a nice new field and that program open space is helping to pay. However, what is not mentioned is that the "turf" in this field is a plastic rug with ground tires as infill between the fibers. The fields are not magic and for the sake of the athletes playing on the field, the problems must be acknowledged (and not so to speak, swept under the plastic rug). Two problems are of particular concern for health and safety: excessive heat and plastic turf burns.
    1) heat: as with any dark plastic or rubber surface, these fields heat up to high temperatures in the sun. While natural grass might need to dry out awhile after a rain for the sake of the grass, overheated plastic fields need to be water cooled or not used for the sake of the athletes. Temperatures in excess of 120 deg. F on the field are considered unsafe for human activity by the CDC.
    Temperatures on Monday Aug 10 were as follows:
    from Anne Ambler using an infrared heat meter between 2:06 and 2:20 p.m. Measurements at one or two locations. Full sun Meter held four feet off the ground. Air temp 95 deg F.

    ON the field: 152 and 159 Deg F
    Adjacent concrete: 110
    Adjacent bare patch of dirt: 111
    Adjacent greenish grass: 96 and 97
    Adjacent very green grass: 90 and 92
    Note the grass was cooler than air due to its transpiration. while the plastic is 60 to 70 degrees hotter due to its absorption of heat.

    2) plastic "turf burns" which are more common on artificial turf and must be carefully cleaned and covered to prevent possible MRSA and other infection.

    In addition - unlike grass but just like a nonliving surface like your car- rain alone is not sufficient to clean a plastic/rubber field and blood, bird droppings etc must be cleaned off carefully without contaminating the groundwater.

    So enjoy the new field but be aware of its potential problems and real limitations and make sure precautions are taken so everyone can enjoy sports on the field to the fullest.
  • Janis (View Email) on August 13, 2009 at 5:27 PM
    Actually, Walter Johnson High School is getting TWO new football fields this year. A brand new sod (grass) field has just been installed for $432,500. That field will see 5 football games played on it and then it will be ripped up along with all of the underground sprinkler system that has been installed. MCPS didn't just "throw down some grass seed", they installed a top of the line grass field. But that will be destroyed and then a brand new $1.2 million artificial turf field will be installed in November. The total cost for the two WJ football fields this year will be $1.6 million
  • Alumni on August 18, 2009 at 4:38 PM

    While your scientific experiments seem to give such OBVIOUS results, your point is made insignificant by the practicality and cost effective installation of turf. First of all, if you had spent any time on the actual field, you would know that it was not filled with rubber pellets, but with sand. I'm sure you had plenty of complaints about the previous field, so just suck it up and deal. You cant single handedly change the world.
  • Kathy on September 8, 2009 at 8:07 AM
    This is sad. Supposed cost-effectiveness (which is untrue anyway) over the health and safety of the students? I have no idea who the anonymous "alumni" is (a Fieldturf rep masquerading as an alumnus?) so I am not sure what the purpose of spreading misinformation is. Ignoring real problems will not make them go away for the children who you are asking to deal with them without adult help. "Alumni" has apparently have not been on the field nor knows how it was constructed. The field's plastic rug which is directly on coarse gravel is indeed topped with a mixture of mostly pulverized tires which is combined with sand. Just take a handful of infill and look at it. Do it on a hot day in full sun. I took the trouble of photo-documenting the whole construction from beginning to end and obtained infrared heat monitors to take its temperature.

    Non-playing observers are not the one who have to "suck it up", the student athletes are. I have talked to many now. They appreciate a smooth more playable surface but the heat is alot to take. Football players have told me they "prefer dirt and rocks" to face fulls of hot rubber pellets and plastic turf burns. Soccer players like the surface better because the ball rolls true but complain about the heat - A varsity player told me that standing still on a hot day is not an option, that he needs to basically hop from one foot to the other or the heat burns his feet and then continues up his legs until he can't stand it anymore. Especially bad where the rubber is still at and over the tips of the plastic tufts. They also complain the pulverized tire sand mixture gets into everything - so they take alot of it home.

    The field is there yes. And it is better than the terribly installed field that was there before. IF the problems are dealt with and it is well-maintained it should be a fine surface to play on but if adults prefer to even deny the problems and special characteristics of the plastic/rubber field the children will suffer the consequences. It should be cooled down or the kids moved to the practice field when too hot. It should be cleaned and well maintained so unwanted matter doesn't build up and the rubber pellets stay level across the whole field - falling on the gravel under the thin plastic backing would not be fun. Parents and boosters need to work with the Parks dept to make sure the coaches and kids are fully informed of the cooling and washing that needs to be done and work with Parks to ensure this field gets the maintenance it needs for the health and safety of the kids and durability of the field.
  • Tim (View Email) on September 9, 2009 at 9:08 PM
    Alumni, while I agree that the turf is a good thing in the long run, I have to correct you on one thing. The truth is that the turf is actually filled with little bits of rubber or tire and whenever it's wet, they get all sticky on the players bodies. Now this seems to be a small and insignificant factor in the big picture but I think you should know that Kathy was absolutely correct about that.
  • alumna3 (View Email) on September 12, 2009 at 12:09 AM
    WHAT? Y is Walter Johnson getting @ NEW FIELDS? Economic discrimination and disparity is why! WJ is in Bethesday where man upper income families live. SIGH.
  • JV Soccer on September 15, 2009 at 7:49 PM
    having played on this field a few times (including 3 games) i do not understand what all the concern is about. As a goalkeeper wearing a long sleeve shirt and black compression shorts under shorts with cleats on i have had no trouble with field itself. the perfect even-ness is amazing and the line will never fade and are much more distinguishable and very helpful. the field has not caused any problems standing on, however running for extended periods of time does seem like the air is hotter. the field is also not hard and the rubber is fine to dive and slide on, althougth some does stick on you.
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