Editorial: When considering turf fields, sports complex, leaders should think bigger, and long term

Things seem to be moving in the right direction regarding a publicly funded artificial turf field in Carroll County. After the Board of County Commissioners set aside $500,000 a few years ago during the budget process, with the goal of fundraising another $500,000 to support a facility that proved unsuccessful, it seemed the project might get scrapped. Instead, there is now renewed interest in not just a turf field, but a Carroll County community events center or sports complex.

County commissioners have asked staff to assemble a task force to examine where best to locate such a facility, while the delegation to Annapolis is seeking a bond initiative up to $500,000 in state funds to pair with the commissioners’ $500,000 for a turf field to make it a reality. There is no guarantee the state will chip in any money, let alone the full $500,000, but lawmakers are hopeful that noting the lack of public artificial turf fields in Carroll will hold some sway as the bond bill moves through committees.


The reality is one turf field probably isn’t enough. And if Carroll can only afford to build one, expect a lot of arguing from residents in various parts of the county about where it should go, which we hope doesn’t kill the project.

Powelson Field, at the former North Carroll High School, is the front-runner at the moment, if only because the county commissioners seem desperate to turn that property into something usable that could potentially bring money to Carroll rather than siphoning it from the county coffers to sit vacant.

But, from a practical standpoint, it probably makes more sense to build such a complex in either the centrally located county seat of Westminster, or in the populous Eldersburg area in the southern part of the county.

Honestly, this is a problem that could’ve easily been solved years ago, when the county built three new high schools in Eldersburg, Westminster and Manchester from 2001 to 2009. While communities with children attending older schools may have cried foul about not having turf fields, it would have made sense for elected leaders at the time to spend additional dollars — financed over several years with the total costs of building the schools — to put turf fields at Century, Winters Mill and Manchester Valley high schools. This would’ve put an artificial turf field in the southern, central and northern parts of the county. Then, over time, the county could’ve financed upgrades at older schools.

It was a short-sighted mistake.

With that said, the advantage of building a multiuse sports complex at a neutral site is that it could potentially be a revenue stream that having a turf field at an active public high school likely would not be. That’s why North Carroll might make the most sense, although there is a compelling argument for Carroll Community College as well.

A sports and/or entertainment facility must be viewed as a long-term investment for the county, something that will be an attractive option for families that will draw them to settle down in Carroll and something that could potentially bring in outside dollars to the economy if it had the ability to host large tournaments and other events. Right now, Carroll residents are taking their kids and their money elsewhere when they participate in these sorts of events on the weekends. Carroll should be trying to get a piece of that pie, and should’ve been for years.

Now, Carroll is once again forced to catch up. You have to start somewhere, and regardless of where the county commissioners and its task force decide is the best location for a sport complex, we would ask that elected leaders think about long-term goals for Carroll and whether one such complex is enough to achieve those.