The debate over artificial turf came up in the school board room again this week.
In a split vote Tuesday, the Loudoun County School Board awarded the contract to install synthetic grass fields at Heritage and Dominion high schools.
The LandTek Group Inc., a New York-based company, was awarded both the contracts; it will install turf and resurface the track at Heritage High School for $1.55 million and complete the same work at Dominion for $1.58 million. The projects are expected to wrap up by August in time for the fall sports season.
That will leave just two remaining public high schools in Loudoun without synthetic turf fields. Briar Woods and Freedom are scheduled to get theirs by August 2019.
Ahead of the vote to hire the projects’ contractors, Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said this week’s spring training tryouts offered a perfect illustration of why artificial turf fields are needed.
“I happen to know several teams who never got to step onto fields prior to making cuts for sports teams. I find that very unfortunate,” Morse said.
Rose’s son, a lacrosse player, travels late in the evenings 12 miles south to practice on the Word of Grace facility in Chantilly. When his team can’t get in there, they practice in their high school gym. Last week, he was pelted with a lacrosse ball in the gym because of the cramped quarters, she said.
“So at 7:50 p.m., he’s going out to Word of Grace to practice to try to be competitive with other schools that don’t have to get on a bus, pay for rental, and certainly aren’t getting injured by a lacrosse ball in a gym,” Rose said.
She also noted that the money to pay for the projects has already been approved by voters as part of a bond referendum.
Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) were the two opposing votes for awarding the contacts. DeKenipp said he’s concerned that pending federal studies could find that the crumb rubber that makes up the synthetic turf is cancerous.
Crumb rubber is made of recycled tires, but studies about its health dangers have so far been inconclusive.
“If we have to go back and tear these fields up to put back grass that athletes have played on for 300 years, we’ll be facing a significant financial burden,” DeKenipp said. “The reality is that turf fields are a want and not a need.”