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Gordon: Turf at North Carroll High still just a 'Field of Dreams'

In the movie Field of Dreams, Ray, an Iowa farmer played by actor Kevin Costner, hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying, “If you build it, he will come.” Similarly, here in Carroll County plans and discussions continue for our very own field of dreams, but unlike the voice in the movie it is whispering, “check your facts.”

Lately, between some county commissioners debating the proposed location at NCHS, our local delegation trying to secure the funds, and candidates professing their undying loyalty and support, there has been much discussion surrounding this proposal. In a meeting in October 2017, Carroll County Recreation and Parks along with Commissioner Weaver outlined a plan that was met with applause from members of the Hampstead community and Hampstead’s Town Council. Included in the discussion were plans for the NCHS property and a turf field with advertising opportunities ranging from $2,500-40,000 a year with discounts for pre-payments for 10-year terms. Carroll County Recreation and Parks offered naming opportunities that included roadside signage, logo on the 50-yard line, stadium press box, track, the main scoreboard, concession stand building, and ticket booth and others.

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Several years ago, the county commissioners set aside $500,000 out of the $1,000,000 required funds to place a turf field at the NCHS complex. This year our county’s delegation is attempting to secure funding toward the remaining $500,000. With significant requests for statewide funding, it will be no small feat to see our local delegation bring back any level of funding for the project from Annapolis.

To date, the department of Recreation and Parks has raised less than $10,000 in sponsorships toward the turf field. The department website does not publicly feature the naming opportunities for the proposed turf field and this information is not accessible online; but only obtained after inquiring to the department. After reviewing their 2018 annual report I noticed that turf field sponsorships are not included and there is no mention nor information for any potentially interested individuals or businesses. With all the advertising and readily available information from the department on the Park Legacy Fund, one does have to question why the attention to the turf field is MIA?

It would be hard to make a legitimate argument against putting in a turf field at the NCHS property. Not many can argue that getting a turf field in the Hampstead/North Carroll area would be a great benefit to so many in the area and across the county. There appears to be a lack of leadership and desire to see this project completed.

Recently, I had a conversation with a large business in the community that previously had spoken to Recreation and Parks about making a sizable monetary contribution toward the field and was met with hesitation by the department, so the contribution was not finalized. In addition, I have also spoken to several recreation council presidents who attended a meeting a few years ago, when this idea was first pitched to the Friends of Carroll Recreation and Parks (FOCRAP). At this meeting an offer was made by a recreation council to donate $50,000 to $100,000 toward the project. The council wanted to know if that would allow them to have their name put on the 50-yard line. Unfortunately, it is my understanding that the director of Recreation and Parks did not grant the council’s wishes and was not prepared to offer anything in return for this sizable contribution. How many other potential contributions have not materialized due to requests being unconsidered? Could this be why Recreation and Parks has not raised more than $10,000?

As someone who has worked with multiple organizations both publicly and privately to raise funds for worthy causes. I would gladly volunteer to assist in seeing this project accomplished for the children and residents of Carroll County and the Hampstead community.

After all of the recent discussions on the positive impact to the community, the high school football teams, and a possible revenue stream for the county, is this Field of Dreams only just a dream?

For Carroll County getting it right is of utmost importance in regards to a turf field. The elected officials at all levels should slow down and listen to the not so quiet whisper, “check your facts,” rather than race to the finish line of having their name attached to the county's first turf field. After taking a walk around the NCHS Stadium with a tape measure, to ensure I had the facts, I was a little surprised by what I discovered. By my estimate, the current grass area is 208 ft across from running track to running track. Obviously, a 50-yard, or 150-foot wide football field fits just fine. The high schools will have a football stadium to rotate through and play on turf fields. Local recreation teams for soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey may be faced with a different scenario. I stopped checking regulation field sizes after coming across the fact that age groups under-6, U8, and U10 can play on the proposed turf field, but U12, U14, U16, U18, and adult cannot play on the proposed turf field since the regulation field will not fit. Even if the running track is removed, which current plans do not call for, it would only make room for U12 to be added to the playable space. I can only hope that the other sports are not impacted as well.

It’s hard to argue with the need for a turf field, since over 500 events were cancelled last year alone due to field conditions and cost $80,000 in transportation costs. By properly spearheading this effort, all age groups from the recreation councils in the county could get to play on a field under the lights and have an experience that will surely boost their confidence and create lasting memories.

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