Poorly constructed fields to be rebuilt this year

Oct. 4, 2002, midnight | By Ben Meiselman | 18 years, 3 months ago

Blair's practice and track fields are scheduled for improvements, some of which have begun already, in the upcoming year. Uneven surfaces and clumps of grass injured many Blair athletes last year.

Blair's baseball and softball fields went through overhauls in the past two years similar to the ones expected for the practice and track fields this year. Athletic Director Dale Miller said the underlying cause of Blair's field problems is "incompetency" that allowed the fields to be constructed improperly by the contractor that built them, Bovis Lend-Lease. Bovis did not return phone calls from Silver Chips.

Physical education teacher and varsity softball coach Louis Hoelman believes the field problems may have been caused by cost-cutting techniques that the contractor implemented in order to stay under budget.

According to the website of SHW Group Inc., which was the architectural contractor for Blair's construction, SHW Group and Bovis saved nearly $400,000 by "stockpiling fill dirt in advance" of construction to level the site, which had sloped down toward the Beltway.

Prior to the baseball field's overhaul in the spring of 2000, the field was covered in debris including large rocks, broken glass bottles, chunks of brick and a railroad tie.

Bovis, MCPS and the Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) are sharing the cost of improvements to the track field, according to Sean Gallagher, the assistant director of facilities for MCPS.

The M-NCPPC will take responsibility for maintaining the track field after MCPS finishes directing improvements on the field, according to Business Manager Anne Alban. Since the building was finished in 1998, the track field has been in unusable condition and construction began last June.

Gallagher explained that MCPS intends to replace the topsoil and install an irrigation system in the track field, which is the only Blair field that currently lacks such plumbing. The construction is slated to start later this fall and to be completed in the spring, said Gallagher.

Improvements to the practice field will also start later in the fall. The practice field should be ready for next year's fall sports teams to use over the summer, according to Miller. Spring sports teams will practice on the track field this year if it is ready.

The responsibility for maintaining Blair's fields is divided between the M-NCPPC and MCPS. The M-NCPPC maintains the baseball, softball, stadium and practice fields in return for the right to issue permits to the public for the use of those fields after 6:00 p.m. MCPS still maintains the track field.

According to Todd Johnson, the park manager of the M-NCPPC's Wheaton Maintenance Facility, the M-NCPPC began to rehabilitate Blair's practice field by regrading it with topsoil, reseeding it and aerating it.

Neither the practice nor the track field are in acceptable playing condition yet, according to Miller, who was angered by the state of Blair's facilities. "We opened the school without a gym floor to play on or a field to practice on," he said.

The small gym floor was ruined last year when a softball hit the ceiling, busting open a pipe and flooding the gym with dirty water.

Miller attributed the poor condition of the practice field to overuse. In a given day, he said, not only do physical education classes and students at lunch use the field but school teams practice on it after school and permit-holders use it after 6:00 p.m. Johnson said that no permits have been issued for use of the practice field yet this year.

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Ben Meiselman. Ben Meiselman is a senior in the Communication Arts Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. He enjoys playing sports, especially baseball. Ben is seventeen years old, born May 16, 1985. He has played the trumpet since fourth grade when he began … More »

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