The Sports Field Management Association (SFMA) recently named Nick Miller, field and grounds coordinator for the City of Aurora Parks and Recreation Department (Aurora, Ohio), as the winner of the 2022 SFMA Mowing Patterns Contest. The winning field is located at Hartman Park in Aurora, Ohio.
SportsField Management recently asked Miller about the winning design.
SportsField Management (SFM): Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your crew and the fields/facilities you manage.
Miller: I am the field and grounds coordinator for the City of Aurora Parks and Recreation Department. I was born and raised in the City of Aurora, and have been working in the “green industry” all of my life. I graduated from Kent State University with a degree in Horticulture. I started my career working in the golf industry for 10 years at the Walden Country Club. That experience provided me with the foundation of my career and the knowledge I use daily. After my time in the golf industry, I worked for The Davey Tree Expert Company as an irrigation technician for the Commercial Grounds division and was promoted to production manager. I was then hired with the City of Aurora as the field and grounds coordinator.
Our department consists of two full-time staff members – Micky Cook and me – along with a few seasonal staff members throughout the year. My department is responsible for the maintenance of 16 ballfields and 15 acres of soccer fields throughout the city. Since I started in this position in 2018, we have been working diligently to provide the safest and best playing surface possible for the community. Since 2018, we have fully renovated nine ballfields and have implemented a field-by-field fertility program.
SFM: Please detail for us the winning design and your inspiration for the design.
Miller: The winning field is located at Hartman Park (325 Townline Road, Aurora, Ohio), which is one of many beautiful parks in the City of Aurora. This 28-acre sports complex was constructed in 2018 and is home to four fields (baseball/softball) and 15 acres of multi-use playing fields for soccer, lacrosse, etc.
My department takes a lot of pride in the details of our work. We began the zigzag design in early fall of 2022. During this time, most of our seasonal help had returned to school and the demand of spring/summer baseball was winding down. We had the responsibilities of fall baseball, but with a lighter schedule, we were able to focus on the aesthetics of our grounds. Since Hartman Park is also home to our soccer complex, we had a record number of players (700 plus), which inspired us to showcase the beauty of this park.
The inspiration for the design all started from the SFMA contests. It is amazing to see the creativity and dedication many field managers have, and I look forward to seeing those photos every year. Personally, I really enjoy the “Stars and Stripes” contest around the Fourth of July. That contest really gives managers the opportunity to showcase their dedication and creativity while paying tribute to our great country.
SFM: There is a lot of foresight, planning, dedication and hard work in what you do. What is your overall approach with regard to mowing patterns and on-field artistry, and what is your advice to other sports field managers?
Miller: The planning, hard work, dedication and responsibilities go way beyond just “cutting grass,” and includes general ground maintenance, maintaining a budget, ordering fertilizer and infield material, parts for equipment, capital requests, large renovation projects, fertilizer applications and managing the field crew.
SFM: What does winning the SFMA Mowing Patterns Contest mean to you and your crew?
Miller: Winning this contest is such an honor. I believe it really demonstrates the dedication and passion we have for maintaining these fields for the community. When I started in this position in 2018, it was my goal to provide the safest and most enjoyable playing fields possible. We have been diligently working toward that goal, and I am very grateful for the support we are given from everyone to help achieve our success. Growing up in Aurora and now raising my own family here, there is nothing more rewarding than watching my two girls and our family and friends play on the fields I maintain each day.