When Quince Orchard High School’s fall sports athletes return to school to begin workouts in August, many of them will have new, Bermuda grass practice fields to train on.
That’s the goal of an ambitious, almost $75,000 makeover of the lower practice fields, baseball and softball fields at the QO athletic complex, which recently completed its initial phases. For QO Athletic Director Jeff Rabberman, the project is his first major physical plant improvement since he began at QO last July and a priority he spotted immediately.
“One of the things that I noticed the first time I walked the fields with (former principal) Mrs. (Carole) Working back in July when I got the job was they’re really not in great shape,” Rabberman said of the athletic fields. “For a school that prides itself on everything that we do, including athletics, I thought our facilities needed an upgrade.”
Rabberman said the deteriorating conditions of the practice fields were particularly noticeable during last year’s dry fall. He said that standing in the Cougar Dome, which overlooks the practice fields, “I’d look down at the football team practicing and you just saw dust up in the air. … I don’t want any of our student athletes to have to practice on that.”
The Bermuda grass fields chosen for the project are similar to the grass used in the Cougar Dome and are intended for heavy physical use and wear and tear.
“Bermuda is actually a weed,” Rabberman explained, “and weeds grow better than grass. … Bermuda grass is thicker and regenerates itself better than tall fescue,” the kind of grass currently on the fields.
The practice fields are used by the football and girls’ lacrosse teams, while the baseball field’s outfield is the home of the field hockey team. In addition to the teams that will benefit from the new fields, students in QO’s physical education classes will also use the fields.
Rabberman said the project is using funds from four sources: Fundraising by the teams that will use the fields, a gift from the senior class of 2018, a contribution from QO’s all-school Booster Club, and funding from the school’s budget.
“We’ve done a phenomenal job of fundraising,” Rabberman said. “We’re going to have to do it again next year.” He said that a plaque will be placed on the fields to thank the class of 2018 for what he described as their “substantial donation.”
Rabberman explained that the project has involved several phases since it was approved by Working. First was writing specifications, requesting bids and selecting contractors. The school selected R.T. MacKenzie to install an irrigation system and BrightView Landscapes to install the Bermuda grass. Montgomery County Public Schools was required to approve the project before it could go forward.
MacKenzie has completed installation of pipes and sprinklers on the practice and softball fields (the baseball field already has an irrigation system). BrightView will next remove the existing grass and weeds, grade the fields, plant sprigs of Bermuda grass, and “we’ll watch them grow,” Rabberman said.
The project is scheduled for completion by the Aug. 8 start of workouts for the fall sports season. The fields will not be used this summer. Some youth sports camps that usually take place on the practice fields will be held in the Cougar Dome this summer.
Rabberman said the fields will be covered by blankets during the winter so that they will be green in the spring and will be over-seeded with rye grass to maintain color.
“We’re very, very excited,” Rabberman said. “This will be a great thing for a lot of people.”
“I want our student athletes to be playing and practicing on the best possible fields that we can get them. … We have a great athletic program here. We have a great physical education program here. We have a great school here. Our facilities need to serve our kids the way that they should and that’s the main reason for this project.”