The Prince George’s County House delegation gave the green light Friday to a bill calling for artificial turf on public school athletic fields.
The proposal, sponsored by Del. Jay Walker (D-Dist. 26) of Fort Washington and Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie, calls for the county’s board of education to put in artificial turf fields at all 21 public high schools by the end of fiscal 2019.
Artificial fields require far less upkeep and line painting than natural grass and have been shown to reduce the risk of injury, lawmakers said.
County delegates approved the bill, which is likely to be OK’d by the full chamber, over the objections of the county school board, which said in a written statement that the money used to pay for the turf fields would be better spent elsewhere.
The fields would be paid for with state Program Open Space money and county capital funds.
Installing a turf field costs about $700,000, but needs less than $4,000 in annual maintenance; annual upkeep for a natural grass field can cost about $30,000 per year, Walker said. “It's a cost savings to the county,” he said.
Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21) of College Park voted against the measure, explaining that she was concerned that the provisions of the bill were mandatory and did not allow schools to choose whether such a field was needed.
Walker stressed that fields not only would support high school football teams, but also soccer, lacrosse and other activities of both boys’ and girls’ teams.