Baltimore County will tap donations from the Baltimore Ravens and a prominent local developer to build two new artificial turf fields in Towson, a community where families have complained recently that recreational space is scarce.
Artificial turf fields will be installed in the stadiums at Towson High School and the Carver Center for Arts and Technology. In addition, the county also will tear up the concrete Patriot Plaza outside the Circuit Courthouse to turn it into a green, passive park.
The projects will cost $4.6 million, paid through a combination of tax dollars and private donations — including from a developer who has a major project under county review.
Caves Valley Partners, which is developing the 1 million-square-foot, mixed-use Towson Row project on York Road, will chip in $200,000 toward the artificial turf fields.
In a statement, Caves Valley's Arthur Adler said his company is "deeply committed to an exciting and vibrant Towson community" and was "delighted" to help pay for the artificial turf fields. He declined to comment further.
Don Mohler, chief of staff and spokesman for County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, said accepting Caves Valley's donation does not create a conflict of interest for county officials who are reviewing the details of Towson Row.
"Their plans will be considered like any other plans that come before the development review process," Mohler said.
The Ravens — whose headquarters are in the county — also are contributing $200,000 to the artificial turf fields.
The Ravens have spent millions building seven artificial turf fields in Baltimore City over the years, said team spokesman Kevin Byrne. The Ravens also gave money to the county to help pay for an artificial turf field at Northwest Regional Park when the football team built its headquarters in Owings Mills.
Mohler said that neither Caves Valley nor the Ravens will receive naming rights for the fields.
The Towson Recreation Council and the Towsontown Recreation Council also are putting money into the fields, and the Carver Center Foundation, which supports the school, is also working on a donation, county officials said.
The cost of the two artificial turf fields is $1.6 million. Some $600,000 has already been set aside in the current county budget, and the donations will add $800,000. The rest will be included in the next county budget, which will be announced Tuesday.
Mohler said using a combination of tax dollars and private donations for the turf fields is a creative way to ensure that needed projects can be completed.
"Our primary focus is spending more than $1 billion in school renovation and construction," Mohler said. "When you're spending that kind of money, you have to make tough decisions in the budget. When you have entities willing to partner with you, it contributes to a positive quality of life in Baltimore County."
County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said he welcomes the donations and the projects. Marks said the county executive listened to constituents' demands for more recreational projects. About 200 residents packed a county Planning Board meeting last month to complain that developers pay too little in fees that fund open space projects. Caves Valley had been cited by residents as an example — the company is scheduled to pay $55,000 in fees for Towson Row.
"The community has really made a difference," said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican. "When I talk to my colleagues on the County Council, they are aware of the open space needs. I certainly commend the county executive for listening to the concerns of the people I represent."
Marks said the projects announced Wednesday put a significant dent in Towson's recreational needs, but there's more work to be done. His wish list of projects includes another artificial turf field in Loch Raven and a small "pocket" park in East Towson.
The Patriot Plaza project will cost $3 million that will come from taxpayer funds.
Patriot Plaza is a concrete-and-brick plaza between the Circuit Court and the Historic Courthouse, which is the main county government office building. A fountain in the center of the plaza was shut off last year after it leaked underground into county offices and a tunnel that connects the building.
The county will budget $1.6 million for above-ground landscaping work, while below-ground structural repairs will cost $1.4 million. In the next few months, the county will solicit proposals for the new park at Patriot Plaza.
While the artificial turf fields and Patriot Plaza project were officially announced Wednesday, county planning director Andrea Van Arsdale mentioned them during a Planning Board meeting last week.