If all goes as planned, Thomas S. Wootton High School athletes will have a new, synthetic playing field come fall.
The Montgomery County Council Education Committee will recommend Tuesday that the full council approve a request from the school system for a new artificial turf stadium field at the Rockville school.
The $1.1 million project will be constructed with private funds. The Bethesda Soccer Club will provide $900,000 and the school’s booster club will provide $200,000.
The booster club is excited to see the project move forward, as it has been in the works for about two years, said Scott Vincentz, a club member who organizes fundraising.
The new field will benefit not only athletes who play football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, but also other organizations such as the school’s marching band, and the community, Vincentz said.
“I was pleasantly surprised to understand how ... this will benefit a huge part of the Wootton population beyond just the sports,” he said.
Some people have opposed artificial turf fields, which are mostly composed of crumbled rubber from tires, since the topic came up about five years ago, said Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg.
They argue that those playing on the fields face health and safety risks.
Janis Sartucci, a member of the Parents’ Coalition, is concerned that at Wootton High, the material that makes up the field will run off into the two streams that run alongside of the stadium.
Three high schools in the county — Richard Montgomery, Walter Johnson and Blair — have artificial turf fields, and Paint Branch and Gaithersburg will have fields soon, said Dana Tofig, schools spokesman.
Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring, the council Education Committee chairwoman, said that despite the environmental concerns, the committee recommends approval because the field is being purchased with all private funds.
The school cannot go forward with the field without the council’s approval, she said.
Wootton High needs the field because students have nowhere to practice, Vincentz said. Students are only allowed to use the field for games.
The school campus, at 27.4 acres, is the second smallest high school campus in the county, and much of the access space is being taken up by portables, he said.
The soccer club, which has a similar deal with Walter Johnson High School, agreed to make the contribution in return for about 900 to 1,000 hours of use per year for a 10-year period, according to a school system document.
The booster club is raising its portion of the field through commercial sponsors and private donations, some of which are coming from families in the elementary and middle schools that feed into the high school.
Despite this approval by the education committee, Ervin said she is still looking to hear more from environmentalists.
“The science on it is not static,” Ervin said. “And the more we learn about the lead content in the rubber. ... I think the jury’s still out.”
Staff Writer Kate S. Alexander contributed to this report.