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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette File PHoto/CHARLIE KAIJO Ryan Monigan of Rogers gets ready to run to second base during a kickball tournament Sept. 29 at Memorial Park in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- This fall was a season of awards for some of the city's facilities.

The United States Specialty Sports Association named Memorial Park's baseball and softball complex the National Sports Complex of the Year at its national convention in Daytona Beach, Fla., last month, and the Arkansas Airport Operators Association named the municipal airport the Arkansas Airport of the Year in October.

Fast facts

Memorial Park is on 73 acres along East Central Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. It includes four lighted softball fields and five lighted baseball fields.

The municipal airport is on 140 acres at 2500 S.W. Aviation St. Its runway is 4,426 feet long and 65 feet wide.

Source: Staff report

The awards recognize the extra effort by many people for the facilities to receive state and national recognition, Mayor Bob McCaslin said.

"That's quite an honor," McCaslin said of Memorial Park's recognition. "That's coast-to-coast."

The sports association selected the park based on the number of registered participants, types of events and tournaments, the quality of the facility and the level of service provided to users, according to a news release from the city.

"To be named complex of the year in USSSA puts you in elite company as we partner with thousands of parks annually," Jeremy McDowell, national program director of USSSA Fast Pitch Softball, said in the release.

David Wright, Parks and Recreation director, and Kalene Griffith, Visit Bentonville CEO and president, worked to recruit the group's Fast Pitch World Series. Organizers agreed to play in Bentonville for the first time two years ago, drawing 80 teams from 15 states.

Impressed by the experience, event organizers asked for the series to return, Wright said. The series is scheduled for a third time at Memorial Park next year.

The sports association is proud of the partnership that's developed with the city's Parks and Recreation Department, McDowell said.

"Their dedication to the overall experience of our customer is unique and inspiring," he said in the release. "We are looking for many more years together."

Wright said his team works hard to build relationships with the parents and coaches. Staff members are on-hand during weekend play to quickly handle anything that might arise; whereas, many tournaments have a director present who might not be with the city's parks and recreation department, he said.

Maintenance crews are constantly working on the fields to make sure the "playing surfaces are the best they can be," Wright said. And, crew members wish young players good luck before a game or cheer them on during play.

Companies donate food for players -- whether it's a burger and hot dog meal or watermelon slices for snacks -- and volunteers will grill when needed, Wright said.

"They sense that David's team is there to make their experience a very good one," McCaslin said, adding he's pleased the Parks and Recreation employees' extra efforts have culminated in being nationally recognized.

Wright said he's appreciative of the award but is more grateful the sports association trusts his department to host its events.

"To continue to host is as much of an honor as a plaque that will be displayed in our lobby," he said.

This is the second consecutive year a Parks and Recreation facility has received an award. The Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association named the Bentonville Community Center the 2016 Facility of the Year in the state.

The Arkansas Airport Operators Association named the municipal airport the 2017 Arkansas Airport of the Year during its 24th annual conference in mid-October in Eureka Springs.

Jerry Chism, director of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics, presented Chuck Chadwick, airport manager, with a plaque who accepted it on behalf of the city and airport.

Criteria for the Airport of the Year include maintaining infrastructure so it enhances safety, initiatives that draw nonflying public to the airport, thinking outside the box and implementing projects that help the airport to be self-sustaining.

"Bentonville is a very good example of almost all of those," Chism said during a phone interview.

The flight center under construction at the airport's northwest corner will have amenities that attract the general public, and the development criteria for future hangars on the airport's west side will be aesthetically pleasing, Chism said. The grass runway is also unique, he said.

"They've done a very good job of planning for the future," he said. "They have a plan and they're executing it."

The Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport at Adams Field in Little Rock was the recipient last year. Other winners include Searcy, Monticello, West Memphis and Russellville municipal airports.

NW News on 12/26/2017

Print Headline: City facilities receive recognitions

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