By Katie V. Jones

For the first time in its history, Laurel High School (LHS) athletes this fall will be able to play home night games on a turf field with stadium lighting while their supporters watch from their seats on aluminum bleachers.

“It’s big news,” said Donald Cleveland, athletic director for LHS.  “We’re breaking ground.”

On May 9, the city of Laurel Planning Commission approved the amended site and landscape plans proposed by Prince George’s County Schools, paving the way for the numerous renovations and improvements planned for the aging stadium to begin.

LHS Stadium
Laurel High School’s current press box will be replaced.
Courtesy of Aiesha Solomon

“This is one that has been on everyone’s minds for quite some time, long overdue, and we’re ready to get started,” Will Smith, supervisor of project management for Prince George’s County Public Schools, told the commission at the meeting.

Renovations include replacing the existing grass field with turf, adding LED stadium and egress lighting, replacing the current wood stadium bleachers with aluminum, building a new press box and storage sheds, and installing new fencing. The renovations also include widening the stadium’s track to eight lanes and creating new areas for shot put, a new high jump pad, a long-jump/triple jump runway and a pole vault runway. The stadium will also include ADA access.

The project is projected to cost about $6.3 million which will be  covered by county funds and a grant from the state. Work is scheduled to begin this summer, with plans calling for the turf field and lights to be completed by Sept. 1.

“There may be delays with the bleachers,” Cleveland said. “Worst case scenario, we’ll have the old bleachers in the fall and the new ones by spring.”

In 2019, an engineering and testing firm was hired by Prince George’s County Public Schools to evaluate the school’s athletic stadium. It was determined that “many of the stadium’s major components were lacking or needed replacement” according to the renovation report issued by the county in September 2021.

LHS stadium2
A turf field will replace the stadium’s current grass field and the wood bleachers will be replaced.
Courtesy of Aiesha Solomon

The grass field has been in bad shape for years. City of Laurel Councilmember Keith Sydnor (Ward 2), an ex officio member of the planning commission, told  the commission that as a high school football referee, he would often have to fill holes in the school’s field with dirt before games.

The lack of lights limited practice and game times for the school’s sport teams. Practices were sometimes held at other locations, and some teams had to play on weekends. 

“With lights, we will be able to have night games and extend practices,” said Cleveland, noting that the addition of lights will also be beneficial on weekends for other groups to use the field for night games or practices.

“It opens opportunities for the community to use pending they get proper approval,” Cleveland said. He noted that the track has always been available for public use when school is not in session.

“It’s a welcome,” said Mitizi Betman, city planning commission chair. “It is great to hear the investment the county is going to put in the school and into the field. That is very, very exciting.”