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Campus News

July 2nd, 2024

Garrett College turf field gets rave reviews

High schools, summer leagues among non-College users


The addition of a multi-purpose turf field has certainly benefited Garrett College’s intercollegiate athletic program. The Lakers, however, aren’t keeping this gem to themselves.

The Northern Garrett and Southern Garrett High baseball teams have played on the GC turf, as has Frostburg State University’s baseball squad. Local Legion teams – including the Garrett County American Legion team and the 13-15-year-old junior Legion squad – have also tested out the new turf. The Pen-Mar League’s Oakland Oaks adult baseball team also calls the GC turf field home.

"It’s definitely getting used like we thought it would," said Eric Hallenbeck, GC’s head baseball coach and co-athletic director. "Once we get the press box finished, I think it’s going to see even more usage."

Hallenbeck – who also opened up field use for Northern and Southern Garrett baseball practices – said the field usage aligns with Garrett College’s community-driven philosophy.

"Unlike a lot of community colleges and counties, Garrett College and Garrett County rely on one another to get things done," said Hallenbeck. "It’s better working with each other. If we can help kids get outside, and on the field, that’s what it’s there for."

"It’s been awesome," said Northern Garrett Athletic Director Phil Carr, who also serves as the Huskies’ head baseball coach. "We [Northern and Southern] played a preseason scrimmage against each other and then played back-to-back, regular-season games against different opponents when both our fields were too wet to use. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t have gotten those games in."

Don Morin, outgoing chair of the Garrett College Board of Trustees, said the field "is serving the purposes we envisioned."

"The College wanted this facility to support Laker athletics and community teams," said Morin. "We very happy to see local high school and youth teams being able to take advantage of this wonderful field."

Morin noted that "the turf field wouldn’t have been possible without our County Commissioners and state legislators arranging to fund it," said Morin of the $3 million project, adding that State Delegate Jim Hinebaugh played a key role in resolving an issue over the state share. The County Commissioners approved $1.75 million in local funding, the state contributed $1 million, and the College put up the final $250,000.

"The field is a great investment for our county youth and the college," said Garrett County Commission Chair Paul Edwards. "Garrett College’s facilities are the best in the state, which helps with recruitment and enrollment, and the commissioners have always supported investment in recreational facilities for our young people to give them positive things to do. It is well used!"

Brandon Jackson, GC’s head women’s soccer coach, said the spirit of collaboration of which Hallenbeck spoke was evident last summer as his Lady Lakers waited for the turf field to be completed.

"Big praise for Northern and Southern high schools for letting us use their fields in the preseason when our field wasn’t ready. That was a huge help," said Jackson, noting Carr and Southern Garrett Athletic Director Matt Redinger strongly supported the GC program launch.

"Of course, we were willing to help out," said Carr. "They [the Lady Lakers] were able to practice between all of the high school practices. It worked out really well."

The Lady Lakers were able to play the final three games of their 2023 home schedule on the turf field, but Jackson said the first practice was nearly as special.

"That first practice – you could sense the players’ relief," Jackson said in a phone interview from Montreal, where he was attending a high school soccer showcase. "And that first game was magical – it was nice just to step on that field and play."

Hallenbeck said the turf field has been a huge upgrade for the College and other local teams.

"We played the most regular-season games of any Maryland community college this past season," said Hallenbeck, attributing that to how quickly a turf field can be used after rain (and, in Garrett County, snow). "There have been times this summer that our local Legion team was the only one playing in the area because everyone else was washed out."

Frostburg State University also played a regular-season baseball game this spring against West Liberty University when FSU’s own grass field was unplayable.

"In years past, FSU allowed us to use their field when ours wasn’t available," noted Hallenbeck.

Hallenbeck said the non-college teams using the field have been uniformly impressed.

"They thought it [developing a turf field] was a great idea," he said. "After playing on it, it’s that much more exciting."

Hallenbeck said baseball camp field usage is also increasing.

"We recently ran a baseball camp with no problems and no rainouts," said Hallenbeck. "The Fellowship for Christian Athletes also used it for an entire week without any issues."

Hallenbeck said usage will continue to rise as the turf field option becomes more generally known.

"There will be more camps, showcases, and tournaments to help bring more traffic into the county as well," predicted Hallenbeck.

The first soccer camp on the turf field will take place July 24-26 and is open to 6-14-year-old girls and boys. Jackson, who will have several of his Lady Lakers as camp counselors, said he hopes the camp "raises awareness of the beautiful complex we have and of the women’s soccer program we are building."

"I think it’s very important for young campers to get to know our women so it sets that foundation that, 'Hey, I can be a future Laker.' "

Jackson said he hopes the new turf field may host a future Northern-Southern high school girls’ soccer game.

"I would love to get both local teams on the field," said Jackson.