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Carroll County General Assembly delegation announces bond bill for a county turf field

Carroll County General Assembly delegation announces bond bill for a county turf field
Members of Carroll County's General Assembly delegation sit at a public hearing for county-focused bills at the Carroll Government Office Building on Tuesday, Jan. 22. From left, state Sens. Katie Fry Hester and Justin Ready and Dels. Haven Shoemaker and April Rose. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

State lawmakers representing Carroll County held a public hearing on county-focused legislation Tuesday, including a bill that would request money from the state for a turf field at the former North Carroll High School.

Years ago the Board of County Commissioners set aside up to $500,000 to put a turf field at the North Carroll High School complex, said state Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5.

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Each year the Maryland General Assembly sets aside about $15 million in the state’s budget for local projects that help communities across the state, explained Ready, the chairman of the Carroll Senate delegation.

Projects must meet a criteria established by the state legislature, the most crucial of which is to have funds to match the state’s investment, Ready said. Other projects — some aimed at addressing the opioid crisis — have taken precedent in the years prior.

After a few projects slated for 2019 were pushed back, the second-term senator added, he and other lawmakers hustled to put forth a bond bill to secure state money for a turf field at North Carroll.

Record rainfall, grass fields and sports are a bad combination, and caused multiple games to be rained out and postponed in Carroll last year.

Anne Arundel County has 12 turf fields, Ready said. Howard County has 12 high schools with turf fields and six parks with multiple turf fields, while Carroll’s other neighbor, Frederick County, has six high school turf fields, added Delegate Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5.

There are no public turf fields in Carroll (McDaniel College and Gerstell Academy each have one).

Many athletic events — including county and state championships — have been moved to other jurisdictions to be played on turf, eliminating opportunities for Carroll to earn ticket sales and concession revenue, and costing towns the deluge of business associated with home games, Ready explained.

The county spent $80,000 in transportation to out-of-county fields in 2018, said County Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2.

Weaver spoke in support of the legislation and announced his vision for a more expansive facility on the former high school grounds.

“We have a facility. We have 50 acres on that site, with probably $10 million in infrastructure,” Weaver said. “We have tennis courts. We have outside basketball. We have a stadium.

“All we need is a turf field to kick start what I’m going to call the Carroll County Community Events Center … this would be a county-wide center being used for sporting events.”

Weaver said he’d ask his commissioner colleagues on Thursday to assemble representatives from each county district to start setting up a vision.

The Long Term Advisory Council’s Recreation and Parks Committee, in its final report, recommended a multisport facility.

Del. April Rose, R-District 5, told the audience that her family spent many hours driving to neighboring counties for sporting events when her four children played sports.

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“It does get frustrating where you constantly go to another community where you’d love to be able to have that at home,” Rose said. “And that North Carroll campus, I had a daughter that played travel softball, we had so many tournaments there, it would be such a great thing for that community.

“Because you’re not there for one day or one game or two games, you’re there usually for the entire weekend and while you’re there … you go into Hampstead and you lunch; and you go back and you have dinner; and, if you win, you come back and you have breakfast.”

Representatives from Hampstead raved about the idea, pointing to the business boon such a facility could bring the town.

“The Town of Hampstead is in full support of this project,” said Town Councilman Jim Roark. “I talked to business leaders, community leaders, everyone looks forward to having it and supporting it.”

But the benefit wouldn’t be limited to Hampstead, it’s for Carroll County’s young athletes and it’s long overdue, some members of the public added.

“I think the whole county would agree having a turf field is a must for this county,” said Jason Sidock, of Silver Run. “We’re putting our children at a disadvantage by not having a turf field.”

Sidock said that when Carroll teams, used to playing on grass, go to neighboring counties and compete on turf fields — they’re not used to the accelerated game speed.

Lawmakers also heard public comment on a number of other locally focused bills, including local liquor licensing changes, a bond bill that would seek state funds for the Westminster Boys & Girls Club, and a bill that would allow lottery machines at certain organizations.

The entire delegation of lawmakers representing Carroll County in Annapolis will meet Thursday morning to vote on whether to support the local bills as a group. Some bills, like those seeking state funds for local projects, can be introduced by individual lawmakers.

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