A pair of new artificial turf fields at The John Carroll School in Bel Air were blessed by a Catholic priest Tuesday afternoon, marking the completion of a roughly $1 million upgrade school officials said was sorely needed after 50 years using the same outdoor athletic facilities.
Father Michael Schleupner, of nearby St. Margaret Parish, walked around sprinkling holy water on the two fields, as teams practiced before a boys lacrosse game between John Carroll and Friends School.
"We are so fortunate to have these spaces for sports," Schleupner said about the private, Catholic school, expressing hope the athletes' "physical discipline reflect the spiritual discipline with which they live."
"May their playing on a team express their sense of community with everyone in their lives," he said.
John Carroll President Richard O'Hara called the gleaming artificial turf "a field of dreams," while noting the next step is to install permanent lighting.
He said the school should have an opportunity to do that next fall, pointing out that last year at this time, John Carroll had scant funds for the project, but engaged a vigorous fund-raising campaign among alumni and friends of the school.
Building the fields required a lengthy negotiation with the Town of Bel Air regarding relocation of a town-owned sewer line, which was completed in the fall, much to the satisfaction of town officials. Bel Air Public Works Director Stephen Kline said Friday that moving the sewer line was mutually beneficial to the school and the town, who shared that cost.
O'Hara said the fields are a "tremendous labor of love" for school leaders and their supporters.
"This wouldn't have happened without all of you," he said to the players as they prepared for the game.