The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday to open up the former North Carroll High School’s stadium and field to the North Carroll Recreation Council.
The field’s grass is still cut weekly and, although there is an active fundraiser supporting a turf field at the site, county staff and commissioners agreed at the commissioner meeting that keeping people out of the school goes against goals to keep its amenities as a community resource.
“We had not been allowing use of the stadium field during the fundraising process,” said Department of Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Degitz Thursday morning. “But it’s gone much slower than we hoped and we’d like to open it up for community use.
“We’re looking at that becoming basically treated as any other athletic field and community park,” he said, “where the local rec council — in this case the North Carroll Rec Council — would be the primary user of this field. Groups coming in from outside the North Carroll community would be charged … the majority of the use would be the local community.”
Degitz said, however, opening the stadium and field would not include opening the press box, concession area or bathrooms because of the cost required to maintain them.
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said he supports use of the field while the discussions about the school’s zoning are still in the works and support for funding a replacement turf field is waning, but wanted to make sure that if anything changed the county wouldn’t be writing off other opportunities.
“Hopefully in a few months we will have some idea of where we are going with this thing,” Howard said, “but at that point it wouldn’t be an inhibitor — people using the field right now — you don't think if we use this for community use, we’re interfering with grander plans to do something else?”
Degitz said no, it wouldn’t keep the county from putting a turf field there in the future.
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said he supported opening up the stadium and field, but not for both games and practices.
“I’d like to keep it as just for games,” he said, “because that makes the stadium [use] a little more prestigious.”
It would also protect the field from too much wear and tear, he said.
Also present at the meeting were Director Jeff Castonguay and Deputy Director Scott Moser of the Carroll County Public Works Department and Deborah Effingham, chief of the Management and Budget Department, to discuss possible use of the auditorium as well and what those costs might be.
What it came down to, Degitz said, was that there have been very few requests to use the auditorium for what would be required to get it in functional condition — like the maintenance of sound systems, seats, security and lights.
“Long story short,” he said, “we are not seeing a lot of interest in that ... and we don't think we would see a return in our investments.”
But the town of Hampstead only recently agreed to support partially rezoning the school — to give the building more possibilities in the near future than merely waiting to reopen — and the agreement not to demolish the school in three years is contingent on the zoning change happening, said Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4.
“I'm certainly open-minded in what we decide,” he said, “but I don't think we should invest any more money into the facility until we get the zoning. Remember … if we don't get the zoning the building comes down.”
Commissioners ended up voting to allow the North Carroll Rec Council to use the space, but not for any capital improvements or specific details on renting protocol for the auditorium, field or stadium.