ROCKVILLE, MD – The Montgomery County Board of Education has approved a settlement agreement with Montgomery Soccer, Inc. (MSI) to resolve ongoing litigation over the construction of and access to artificial turf fields in Montgomery County. MSI will contribute up to $5.2 million to construct new artificial turf fields at Walt Whitman High School, Albert Einstein High School and Julius West Middle School in exchange for access to the fields when not in use by the schools, in accordance with similar field use agreements. The settlement also clears away the litigation-related obstacles to construction of a new turf field at Winston Churchill High School as well as a use agreement for the Richard Montgomery High School stadium field.
“This agreement is good news for our students and our school communities as it gives us new high quality athletic fields without any additional construction costs to our taxpayers,” said Michael Durso, president of the Board of Education. “In addition to athletic events and practices, schools will be able to use these fields during the school day for physical education classes.”
“All of us in Montgomery County want the same thing—high quality playing fields for our children and families to enjoy,” said MSI Board Chair Peter Korolkoff. “We are happy to put this litigation behind us and partner with MCPS in a creative solution that gives our children great fields to enjoy the sport they love. We look forward to a long and productive partnership to promote youth soccer in our great county.”
“At a time when resources are scarce, but demand is high, it is essential that we all work together to find solutions,” said Durso. “This positive resolution of the litigation means we can put this behind us and work with MSI and other partners to improve fields across the county.”
The settlement resolves litigation brought by MSI in July 2014 challenging the award of long-term use agreements by MCPS to the Potomac Soccer Association and Bethesda Lacrosse Association related to the construction of a new field at Churchill High School and to the Bethesda Soccer Club for use of the existing field at Richard Montgomery High School.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, MSI will provide $1.2 million to construct an artificial turf field at Walt Whitman High School. Additionally, MSI will provide as much as $2.4 million to construct turf fields at Julius West Middle School and $1.2 million to upgrade the field at Einstein High School to artificial turf. In exchange, MSI will have access to use these fields for a set number of scheduled hours per year for the next ten years, when they are not reserved for school use. The construction of the fields will be contingent on various approvals from the county and the City of Rockville.
“We are thrilled to hear that we have been approved to begin our fundraising effort to construct an artificial turf field at the high school,” stated Elissa Ginsky, president of the Walt Whitman High School All Sports Boosters, which is raising additional funds to contribute to the artificial turf field program. “We believe it will benefit our athletes who will have a consistent ability to play and practice without concern about the availability of the grass field. They will not need to travel all over the county to borrow other fields or conduct practices indoors.”
“This agreement helps to address the declining condition of Einstein’s athletic field,” stated Phil Curtin, president of the Albert Einstein High School Booster Club. “This is an important step for our athletes and our school and our community. We look forward to working with MSI to give our community the field it deserves.”
Additionally, the agreement allows Richard Montgomery High School to continue its field use arrangement with Bethesda Soccer and permits Winston Churchill High School to move forward with identifying a partner to construct a turf field. In 2014, Potomac Soccer, Bethesda Lacrosse and the Winston Churchill Booster Club were awarded the contract to construct the turf field at the school in exchange for a 10-year agreement for primary use outside of the school day.
With the addition of these four potential fields, MCPS will now soon have artificial turf venues at two middle schools (Julius West and Lakelands Park [operated the City of Gaithersburg]), one elementary school (Somerset), and nine high schools across the county, including Walter Johnson High School, Thomas S. Wootton High School, Richard Montgomery High School, Paint Branch High School, Gaithersburg High School, Montgomery Blair High School (operated by Montgomery County Department of Recreation), and Wheaton High School (which will be constructed as part of the revitalization/expansion project of that school).
In accordance with the Montgomery County Council’s January 2015 resolution, the artificial turf fields that will be installed at these schools will use plant-derived materials for the infill or other alternative infill that does not pose health, safety, and environmental concerns.