At most Montgomery County public high schools, coaches and athletic directors put in a lot of individual time and effort to keep athletic fields not only playable, but in excellent condition.
Take for instance Germantown’s Seneca Valley High School, an athletics program that has enjoyed a lot of success, winning more state football championships than any other school in Maryland.
According to Athletic Director Jesse Irvin, he and the coaches mow the grass and line the fields themselves. The football field at Seneca Valley consists of Bermuda grass, which is supplied by a private outside landscaping company, the Brickman Group. But once the sod is put down, it is up to Irvin and his coaches to maintain the field.
“We’re not a school with a contract,” Irvin said. “The county doesn’t maintain our fields.”
Despite the hard work and time commitment, Irvin believes having control over his own fields helps the school in the long run.
“It gives us an advantage,” he said. “I believe we have one of the nicest grass fields in the county, and our kids love playing on it.”
Although the county does not help maintain Seneca Valley’s fields, the Montgomery County Public School system does provide some financial aid.
“High schools, for the most part, provide for the maintenance for their athletic fields,” Dr. William “Duke” Beattie, Montgomery County’s director of system-wide athletics, said in an email to The Gazette. “...The school system periodically foots the bill for resurfacing a high school stadium field, doing about one school per year. The school system also takes care of resurfacing tracks and tennis courts.”
So, while field maintenance is usually one of the top priorities for an athletics program, the schools must come up with their own ways to fund it completely.
Some schools, most notably Silver Spring’s James H. Blake High School, have a unique relationship with Montgomery County Parks and Planning. Blake allows for Parks and Planning to permit the baseball and softball fields to be used for non-school athletic events in return for the maintenance of the baseball and softball fields, the practice softball field and lower practice field, used by the soccer and lacrosse teams. The lights at both the softball and baseball field are also maintained by Parks and Planning.
“I do not have to budget for the maintenance of our game fields for baseball and softball,” Blake Athletic Director Jared Fribush said in an email to The Gazette. “...The fields are also maintained throughout our offseason, so that when we return to use on March 1, they are theoretically in playing condition already.”
Fribush does believe the school loses some control over its fields. There are a number of permitted users, especially on the weekends, and the coaching staff must repair the field from that use.
The biggest advantage that comes with the partnership is the lights on fields that usually don’t have them at public high schools, Fribush said. It allows the school to schedule a number of night games, allowing parents better opportunities to watch their children play. It also gives coaches the ability to hold practices later in the afternoon.
Blake still must budget between $30,000 and $45,000 per year to pay for field maintenance, as the county does not maintain the Bermuda grass stadium or field hockey fields. All in all, Fribush acknowledged that it is a positive relationship for both the school and Parks and Planning and that Blake’s fields are in excellent condition.