Pallotti eyes city's McCullough Field for future home turf

In the past decade, St. Vincent Pallotti High has built a new gymnasium, joined new athletic conferences and, as of last winter, hired a new principal/president with an extensive background as a coach.

Now the school may be looking for another way to branch out in athletics.

Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said he was approached by representatives of Pallotti High earlier this year about the future of the athletic playing fields at Alice B. McCullough Field, which is one block from the downtown Laurel private school.

Jeffrey Palumbo, named the new Pallotti principal/president in February, confirmed Dec. 20 that there have been discussions between the school and the city over expanding the school's use of McCullough Field, perhaps for football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey.

Both Moe and Palumbo emphasized the talks are preliminary, and Moe said no city money has been set aside for improvements of the field at this time.

Moe said Pallotti administrators did mention the idea of a stadium, but Palumbo did not give a possible seating capacity in the event discussions went that far.

Moe said Pallotti approached the city about six months ago, but he said no conversation on the topic has been held in the past few months and he wants more community comment before any decision.

This is not the first time that Pallotti has gauged the city's willingness to share McCullough.

Moe said that about three years ago an overture by Pallotti to expand McCullough Field was turned over to the city's Community Action Council, and the response was not favorable.

Closer to home

"It is so convenient for us to have our kids locally. It is an obvious benefit," Palumbo said of McCullough Field. "All we did is see if there is any interest at all (from the city). There have been attempts in the past to upgrade the playing fields at McCullough. We thought it might be a good opportunity (now) to partner with the city in a way that could benefit everyone in the community."

For the past few years Pallotti has used two Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission recreational fields for sports practices and home games.

Football and boys and girls soccer games have been played at Fairland Regional Park, on Old Gunpowder Road in West Laurel about 5 miles from the school. The school has also used the softball fields at Fairland for its home games and has used fields at M-NCPPC'S Supplee Field, on Brooklyn Bridge Road in West Laurel, for football practice and varsity and junior varsity baseball and lacrosse.

Palumbo said those facilities are still available to Pallotti for the foreseeable future.

Moe and Palumbo both said that no financial figures were discussed about how any upgrades would be paid for, and Palumbo did not pinpoint a seating capacity for any possible football field and/or stadium.

"For us it is the playing surface we are looking for. From our standpoint it does not have to be anything grand," said Palumbo, a former coach and administrator at DeMatha Catholic and Towson Catholic. "We don't need a big capacity."

"A few months ago (Pallotti officials) ... said they were interested in opening up a dialogue about the future of McCullough Field. They gave some ideas, such as turf and a stadium part of the field. I said it is interesting," Moe said.

"We have a long way to go; I want to stress that," Moe said. "We have to get the community engaged. No money has been put aside for this."

Moe said the city needs to do improvements to McCullough Field regardless of who is using it. "This would be a major capital improvement. There have been groups that would like to light the field, but it's in an area that requires parking," Moe said.

Upgrades, expansion needed

Mike Lhotsky, director of Laurel Parks and Recreation, said available field space is an ongoing topic at various sites.

"The city owns McCullough Field. We have an agreement with the Laurel Boys and Girls Club for their use of the field when needed. We want to make sure that is honored," Lhotsky said. "The club gets the first shot at it."

Lhotsky said the field is also used by St. Mary's Catholic Youth Organization for sports such as softball and soccer, and by Laurel Little League.

He was also guarded about saying anything concrete had been planned.

"Pallotti has approached the city about an idea. We had a discussion with certain administrators. We are looking at McCullough Field as a whole to see what we can do in the future. We have not made any determination or decisions," Lhotsky said.

There is very little field space behind Pallotti, which sits between St. Mary's Place (Eighth Street) and Ninth Street, but in the past softball and lacrosse, have practiced behind the school.

Lhotsky said it is too early to say if Pallotti could one day play home football games at McCullough.

"We are looking at all possibilities," Lhotsky said. "City-wide we want to figure out a way to get more field space. We are looking at all options."

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