Prince George's County lawmakers are looking to avoid a turf war over a new bill that would require all public high schools in the county to install artificial fields by the end of 2018.
While turf fields generally cost more upfront, proponents say they save money over the long run due to low upkeep compared with the maintenance natural grass requires. The fields can also be open year-round.
"Synthetic turf allows for constant play. You can have a lot more kids playing on those fields than you would if they were grass," said Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council.
Doyle added that artificial turf costs four to five times less in maintenance costs than keeping a grass field.
Critics, however, say artificial fields are often not as reliable as turf companies suggest. The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland began pushing back when Montgomery County built a turf field at Rockville's Richard Montgomery High School in 2008.
"The fields that we have in Montgomery County are not lasting," said Parents' Coalition member Janis Sartucci. "They're deteriorating and have to be replaced."
Sartucci said the fields Montgomery County has built since then have shown signs of wear much earlier than expected, which could present a problem if new Prince George's fields are all built about the same time.
"If they all fail in five to seven years, are they going to be able to replace them all, or is Prince George's going to have a ton of failed fields and nowhere to play football games?" she asked. "To do all this at once, you'd better have money in the bank."
While turf fields in some areas have been met with safety concerns over the ground rubber often used to fill them, the Environmental Protection Agency released a study in 2009 reporting that average concentrations of contaminants like lead sampled in turf fields were below EPA standards for soil.
If it passes, the bill will give the Prince George's County Board of Education say over how and when the new fields would be purchased.