For the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ system, being “Great By Choice” is not just a motto, but a theme centered on making the county the best place to live, work and play.
Thanks to its Capital Improvement Program, PGCPS has been able to showcase a few projects with the goal of making the county a go-to destination for Marylanders.
Nine county high schools, ranging in location from Brandywine to Upper Marlboro, were able to receive upgrades for its athletic facilities, providing students with a better opportunity to take part in athletic events this fall.
Frederick Douglass High School, in Upper Marlboro, was among the select few schools that received a total of $317,270 in upgrades for a new rubberized field and tennis court, according to a PGCPS fact sheet.
One of the main people involved in the athletic facilities renovation at Douglass High was Jessie G. Magee, a project manager II at the Department of Capital Programs.
“The existing conditions [on the tennis court] were that we had major cracking along both [sides] of the track with vegetation coming through,” Magee said. “We repaired the cracks and included a five-inch asphalt overlay on top of that and then installed a new 10-foot fence with two pedestrian gates, new net posts and new tennis court nets.”
Along with upgrading the tennis court, Magee said American Tennis Courts, Inc. provided the resources to also repair the school’s track and field.
“This is one of at least four tracks completed this fiscal year for the county’s Capital Improvement Program,” Magee said. “The surface was coming up and we had cracks running across multiple areas throughout the track. So the repair scheme for this was that we came in and … took up an inch-and-a-half of asphalt and then came back with another overlay. The construction process for that took about [two to three] days. … Then we came back and put the surface on [which] took about a week.”
Magee said a similar track-and-field setup can be found at other high schools in the county.
“With the exception of the color schemes, you will see the same track at [other high schools including] DuVal, Northwestern [and] Charles Flowers,” said Magee. “The difference is some of the schools have more lanes than others. [Frederick Douglass] has a six-lane track and a seventh lane for sprinters.”
For Douglass High track athletes like junior Colin Smith and senior Devin Butler, the upgrades have not only made practicing more enjoyable, but provided a sense of relief as well.
“Our old track was real damaged so it caused a lot of injuries,” said Butler. “We had to travel to other tracks just so we [could] actually practice because we’d be too hurt to practice on our track. … Sometimes, we had to stay on the field [or go] inside just because of how bad our old track was.”
After having surgery for a knee injury, Smith said practicing on the old track was no longer an option.
“I was coming off knee surgery so I couldn’t really practice on this,” Smith said. “We had to go from practicing five days a week to maybe like three … [and] travel to the [Prince George’s County Sports and Learning Complex] and back. … Now that we got a new track, no injuries should occur. It feels pretty good, too.”
Speaking of pretty good, Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High was another school in Upper Marlboro selected for new athletic facilities.
The PGCPS fact sheet noted both Wise and Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine received a new turf and lighting field. Out of the nine schools, the $1,531,887 in upgrades done at Wise was the second-most expensive compared to those done at Gwynn Park, with costs totaling $1,687,081.
“The design was to install lights and also that turf field,” said Will Smith, who is also a project manager II at DCP. “The project took [about] a year because we started design around [August of] 2014 … [and had to go] through permitting and multiple revisions of the design through [the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement] DPIE. We were finally able to start construction in the winter of 2014.”
As far as Smith’s role in the design process, he said he was involved in everything from selecting the turf type to choosing different shades of color on the field.
“I selected the turf type, did the design, made sure that we had the logos, the in-zone lettering and different shading … and all the various sports lines,” Smith said. “[I played an intricate role] in making sure we had that for not just [Wise] but for Gwynn Park as well.”
Smith’s hard work certainly did not go unnoticed. He said the athletic coaches at Wise were eager to use the new turf field and started practicing on it before construction was finished.
“[I personally think] it’s fantastic,” said Jason Gordon, an athletic director at the school. “When they presented us with the approved proposal that we were going to get a turf field, I thought it was absolutely going to be fantastic because we have limited practice field space. So this allows our fall sports teams to utilize a regulation-size field to practice as well as play. They’re [now] playing on a surface that’s relatively smooth [and] reduces the probability of them getting injured. … Now we have the ability for our teams to practice on a very nice playing surface. … It’s a beautiful field [and] we enjoy playing on it.”
The new turf field is something just about everyone is raving about at Wise, especially the student athletes who have used it.
“I enjoy the new field,” said Jabari Laws, a junior who plays football and also runs track. “I feel that it’s more appealing … [and] better because it’s flat. With the old field, I don’t think it was even.”
Laws’ teammate and friend, senior Myles Wolfok, agreed and said the new turf field is aesthetically pleasing and more useful.
“The field is more leveled,” Wolfok said. “It’s definitely a better surface for us to play on and also appealing. Everybody wants to come to a school that has a pretty field [and] pretty facilities. … It’s real fun. I actually enjoy it.”