LANHAM — With County Executive Angela Alsobrooks emphasizing county beautification and youth sports as priorities for her administration, parents and coaches have expressed concern over the poor conditions of specific athletic fields throughout the county.
Delvin Champagne’s son plays on the Lanham Raiders lacrosse team, which practices at the Lanham Sports Park and Field on Good Luck Road and has reached out to county officials for help with the field’s conditions.
“It is still a hazard to the young people because there is debris and it is not as (maintained) as it needs to be and we’re kind of concerned about it,” he said.
The park, privately owned by the Lanham Boys and Girls Club, has ongoing problems with debris, water damage and unpaved roads, Champagne said.
“So the idea is to get some of the debris removed, that’s kind of the priority. There is water on some of the grassy areas, and the area where you drive is old where water is settled in,” Champagne said. “It’s not great. They need to do some paving and try to dry up some of those areas that hold water and remove the debris. Those are our three initial requests, and we’ll see how it goes. If the county wants to help, that would be great.”
The Prince George’s Youth Lacrosse League operates seven teams throughout the county from Fort Washington to Laurel, including the Lanham Raiders, and one team from Baltimore.
According to Champagne, the team does not play actual games at the Lanham field, and it is just used for practice.
One of the places that the team plays their games on is the field at Walker Mill Regional Park, which Champagne said “is a beautiful park” with nice turf and everything the youth team needs. They also played at Heurich Park Turf Field in Hyattsville, which is also well maintained.
Because the Lanham park is privately owned, Champagne said there may be other obstacles that come with getting funding from the county or the state but he “can potentially see Lanham Park being like that.”
However, fixing up the park is not that easy for a nonprofit organization like the Lanham Boys and Girls Club.
“Basically, everything we do is on our own unless we ask for funding for certain things that we need for the field, but other than that it’s just like having your own house, we do our own thing,” said Board Member Florence Snowden. “Everything is volunteer, everything is volunteer. We may have help and all of a sudden we don’t have help.”
The club gets its funding from sponsorships and donations, she said, and things like field maintenance cost a lot of money that the club does not have at this time. Since 2001, some sponsors have left and not come back, so the club is always trying to find more to help out in addition to applying for grants each year.
Despite the issues with money, Snowden said the club is interested in finding a way to fix up the field as well as revamp the club as a whole.
“We are trying to revamp our club as well to bring more kids into the club,” Snowden said. “Things are changing, you’ve got more organizations around the boys and girls club, and it’s not the boys and girls club anymore.
“You’ve got different people who have got their own organization that is drawing kids back and forth, so we are doing a revamp ourselves bringing kids back into our club.”
The Lanham Sports Park is not the only county field that has seen many issues. Football Commissioner for the Glenarden Bulldogs Barry Saunders said their teams practice at the Glenarden Community Center field “which is trash.”
Although the field is owned by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, Saunders listed the same issues that the Lanham Sports Park has such as water damage and debris. Rain messes up the field even more and the only time they use the field after it rains is when they have a game.
“I would even myself, personally, come out of my pocket to pay a landscaper to come there and redesign the field,” Saunders said. “I know it’s expensive, but it would be nice. Because, I mean, I’ve been living in Glenarden since the 80s and their field has always been the same way.”
The team plays their fall season home games in Glenarden as well as practices for their fall league which begins in the summer and their spring league which runs from March until the end of June. Apart from how the field looks, it is also hazardous as Saunders has seen kids twist their ankles on the uneven ground.
“They (the parents) don’t like it because, like I said, their kid could get injured,” Saunders said. “I know some kids a few years ago who got injured and they couldn’t even play for the rest of the season. We’re always talking about how bad that field is.”
Alsobrooks has recognized the importance of youth sports on young people and has made it a priority of her administration to improve access to youth sports throughout the county.
“We recognize the strength of sports,” Alsobrooks said during a press conference on April 12. “It is not our intention that all of our kids will become athletes necessarily but we understand the true benefits of building a child through sports, to build character and to help build also our kids into strong emotional and physical beings who will become better students, better citizens and better family members.”
With the end of the 2019 Legislative Session on April 8, legislation passed to establish a Youth Sports Division within the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission which will streamline the scheduling process for the county’s facilities ensuring that all kids are able to play. However, it does not affect upgrades for the parks that most youth leagues use.
“The maintenance is still responsible to the entity that owns so it if it’s the school system’s field then they will have to maintain it,” she said. “If it is owned by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning then they will still have a responsibility to maintain it.”
Snowden said the Lanham Boys and Girls Club hopes to work directly with the county executive and her team to work on improvements to their field.
“We want to discuss things with the county exec to see what her thoughts are because I know she has been putting out a lot of things she wants to beautify with Prince George’s County and we want to see what feedback she can give to help us with our field.”