The City of New Albany Parks and Recreation Department recently was recognized by Pioneer Athletics with their Fields of Excellence award. NAPR joined 91 other winners world-wide as recipients of the prestigious award presented by Pioneer Athletics which is the nation's leader in field marking paint and field marking accessories.
"The Fields of Excellence program was begun in 1997 as a way for us to recognize individuals who took pride and care in their athletic facilities," said Pioneer Area Sales Representative Glen Ross. "This could be anywhere from a professional sports team to a D-1 college to smaller colleges to high schools to park and recs, it does not matter.
"It's an idea that we are trying to recognize people who take pride in their work, who take pride in their facilities, hopefully to increase their public's awareness to the work that they do as well as foster community pride in the work that they do."
Since 1997 the Fields of Excellence program has awarded 1,102 winners and for the year of 2018, there were 91 honorees. Applications were submitted from professional, college, park and recreation and high schools. Those winners were determined by the look of the field, descriptions of how the fields were maintained by the applicants.
"I believe it was Chase Jeter that filled out the application online for New Albany Parks and Recreation and he gave some of the background of what they do here and how they take care of it," Ross said. "To us at Pioneer, we call it our Hall of Fame mainly because 1,102 recipients in 22 years, it's something that we take very seriously and obviously the people here at the City of New Albany - Johnny Epting, Chase Jeter, Steve Treadaway, Terry Ball and Alvin Parks, not to mention the other part-time employees here, they obviously care about their athletic facilities.
"They have multiple facilities where the Cotton States Baseball League which is college players that form teams in the summer, to high school teams (New Albany baseball and fastpitch softball), down to your coach pitch and t-ball teams. They've got a multitude of playing fields for a multitude of wear and tear and uses. They do a great job, plain and simple. We want to recognize them and I'm proud to say they are one of seven in my territory which consists of 118 counties that I've had recognized since I've been working with Pioneer just short of 14 years."
The Sportsplex has been a key fixture in New Albany since the early 1990's and has offered a wide variety of athletic opportunities to thousands of area youth. It has also brought in a great deal of revenue into the City of New Albany with a host of tournaments and events that take place annually at the facility.
New Albany Mayor Tim Kent praised the work of the city employees at the Parks and Recreation Department saying "Those guys do a heck of a job. It's a daily chore to keep those fields in shape and takes quite a bit of time and money.
"The guys take pride in their work, even sending soil samples off regularly to see what is best for the Bermuda grass."
The mayor has seen and received positive feedback in bulk about the excellent condition of the playing fields and the work of the park employees.
"Everybody who plays here writes a letter or calls about how nice the fields are to play on," Kent said. "When Blue Mountain College was using the fields while theirs was under construction the coach said of the Sportsplex fields 'Yankee Stadium couldn't be any better.'
"There has been talk about possibly using artificial turf, but the estimated cost would be one million dollars or more. Special equipment would be needed and the turf would only last a dozen or so years before needing replacement."
With the quality product that is turned out by the park employees and the great reception by home and visiting teams echoing the praise of the grounds, natural grass will perhaps be here for a long time.
Chase Jeter submitted the application for the Sportsplex and he took time to share his thoughts on how much the recognition meant to him and his coworkers following the presentation on May 20.
"It means a lot to be recognized for our hard work, we spend countless hours out here on these fields during the hot summer months and the cold winter months whether it be mowing, fertilizing, aerating or whatever," Jeter said. "We try to put out the best product that we can for these different teams that play on these fields.
"We want the best playing surface possible and it just means a lot to be recognized for all our hard work."
BNA Bank Park fields undergo a lot of activity and have a lot of wear and tear over a 12 month period and the park employees are diligent with their groundskeeping and game day work to keep the facility in pristine playing condition.
"Legion Field is played on nine to ten months out of a year, so there's not a lot of downtime," Jeter said. "Basically the only months there's nothing going on it are December and January and during those times of the year it is hard for us to get on it and do a lot of work, but we try our best to get out here when we can."
Johnny Epting oversees the total operation of the Parks and Recreation Department and he offered praise for the all his coworkers who go the extra distance to make the Sportplex the athletic jewel that it has come to be and offered his insight on how much the award means.
"It means a lot, I'm fortunate to have such a great crew," Epting said. "I look at it that I didn't do anything, but you are no better than the people that you surround yourself with and I appreciate all that they do.
"They really do put a lot of hours in, they take pride in what they do and I thank God for giving us such a crew."
Epting went on to say that the mayor and aldermen have always financially allowed the parks and recreation department to get the equipment and chemicals that they needed to maintain the fields as well as supply the manpower to do the work.
"In closing I think there are some guys that we need to give credit to that have moved on to different jobs," Jeter said. "Seven or eight years ago, Charles Brunetti came and invested his time and knowledge with us and that's helped us out a lot.
"Andy Johnson spent countless hours on this field and put some work in. Luke Wade also helped and he spent a year here and he contributed to the work on this field and we wanted to give credit to them as well."
Pioneer Athletics website features the Fields of Excellence winners and offers special recognition by saying "At Pioneer Athletics we are proud to salute the men and women who work hard to make game day a special day by producing an exceptional field of play."