Space limits force new high school to build off-site sports field

January 09, 1995|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County's new high school in East Columbia will not have enough land to accommodate all its athletic teams, forcing school officials to build additional practice fields at a nearby park.

The softball and soccer teams at the still-unnamed high school likely will have to practice on school-owned land in the Locust Park area, said Don Disney, the school system's coordinator for athletics. The land is about three-quarters of a mile from the school site.

The $25 million school -- on Dobbin Road northeast of Route 175 in Columbia's Long Reach village -- is scheduled to open in fall 1996 and will serve at least 1,400 students, relieving some of the crowding at county high schools.

The three-story building will serve as a technology magnet school, and its design around a courtyards means it requires more land than a typical high school of its kind.

The school's 45-acre site will be able to accommodate numerous other athletic facilities, including a football stadium and track, a practice football field, a varsity baseball diamond and four 180-foot by 300-foot grass fields, said Bill Grau, the school system's site planner.

But the anticipated needs of teams for fall and spring sports -- such as lacrosse and field hockey -- will overwhelm the school's outdoor practice facilities, Mr. Disney said.

School officials already have begun plans to turn the Locust Park site -- near the intersection of Route 175 and Tamar Drive -- into two softball fields and a soccer field, Mr. Disney said. The land owned by the school system originally had been designated as the future site for an elementary school, but now is considered to be too small.

It has not yet been decided whether team members will take a bus to the new practice fields or walk, possibly along a path built by the school system, Mr. Disney said. School officials plan to discuss the subject later this week.

"In a perfect world it would be possible to locate everything at one location. But it's not," said Stan Rappaport, PTA president at Mayfield Woods Middle School. "It's unfortunate, but, if other schools are doing the same thing, then I'm sure it will work out all right."

The new high school will become at least the fifth in the county lacking sufficient on-site sports practice facilities, Mr. Disney said.

Atholton, Howard and Mount Hebron high schools use facilities at other schools or parks, and Hammond High School has been forced to create a staggered practice schedule for its teams, he said.

"It works out OK. The kids adjust to it, because they understand that it's the only thing we can do." Mr. Disney said.

When Wilde Lake High School reopens in 1996, it also will need to resume using fields at nearby schools for team practices. But the proposed site of a high school in Fulton on Route 216 -- expected to be opened after 2000 -- will be large enough to accommodate the necessary practice fields, Mr. Disney said.

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