Major Funding Provided for Creation of Artificial Turf at WJ

Bethesda Soccer Club to Help Finance with $402K;
Proposal Awaiting Authorization




With the modernization project well on its way, the administration and county have shifted their focus to the stadium and field, specifically regarding the possibility of installing artificial turf on the field. After months of negotiation with county officials, numerous private partners and the Board of Education (BOE), the school’s request for turf is now being sent to the County Council.

According to Principal Christopher Garran, this process began approximately one and a half years ago, where it was brought up at a meeting that WJ was losing field space due to storm water management equipment. Because of this, it was casually proposed that WJ have artificial turf rather than grass.

“Before anyone talked about artificial turf, we were losing practice field space in the margin,” said Garran. “Because of storm water management requirements now in Montgomery County, we have these big traps that they build. They’re like these big ditches that trap the water.”

The idea wasn’t brought up again until the fall, when artificial turf was recommended for WJ based on how well it has been received at Richard Montgomery.

According to Garran, the only way that artificial turf would be considered was if a private partner agreed to fund part of the total costs to prevent the project from being a burden on tax payers, as the entire installation costs an estimated $1.2 million. After WJ received bids from numerous private partners, Bethesda Soccer Club’s (BSC) bid eventually came out on top, although it took multiple offers for an agreement to be reached.

The deal made with BSC requires them to pay a total of $402,000 in a span of five years in exchange for “preferred scheduling” of the field. This will not give BSC any priority over WJ sports, but they will get precedence to field time that is available to non-WJ related activities.

With BSC on board, the current plan approved by the BOE on March 10 includes an additional $335,000 coming from the county, along with BSC’s funding. The rest of the costs will be funded by a loan, and the county is finding a leasing company that will provide the best offer for this loan.

At the board meeting on March 10, Booster Club members testified in their support of the artificial turf, and eight out of the nine BOE members voted to accept BSC’s partnership for the turf.

The County Council will now discuss the turf proposal, which must receive the Council’s approval to be adopted. If the County Council approves the proposal, it will go back to the BOE for final agreements to be made regarding the financing and engineering of the turf installation. According to Garran, the goal would be for the turf to be installed in time for spring sports next year, with construction beginning right after fall sports.

While most transactions regarding the turf are out of WJ’s hands at this point, there have still been some speculations about the idea of turf replacing grass, the environmental costs of doing so and the financial impact.

Although varsity boys soccer coach Mike Williams is not opposed to the artificial turf, he stated what he would rather have at WJ athletic-wise.

“Personally I prefer good grass that is taken care of,” said Williams. “However, because it’s so hard to maintain good grass, I think that the next best option is artificial turf.”

While Garran also stated that a grass field would have been his first choice, field space and maintenance problems aside, both Garran and Williams recognized that some have overlooked a positive financial aspect to having artificial turf installed.

“It is a very good option because it is a huge money maker, which I’m afraid some people may not recognize how it can bring in a lot of money,” said Williams.

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