Armory Park earns national award

Published 10:26 am Friday, March 6, 2015

Armory field, dressed and ready for football season. The park has recently garnered honor as a “Field of Excellence.” SUBMITTED | CLAY HYATT

Armory field, dressed and ready for football season. The park has recently garnered honor as a “Field of Excellence.” SUBMITTED | CLAY HYATT

Every time the Franklin High School Broncos football team runs onto the field, Head Coach Darren Parker has a message about being champions. From the weight room, every single drill in practice, to how they carry themselves off the field and in the classroom, the football coach wants the players to sweat and bleed VHSL State Championship.

Finally, when the football team steps off the bus and onto the field at Armory Park, Parker wants them to be positive, motivated, to carry out the game plan and play Bronco Championship football.

Now, thanks to the Franklin Department of Parks and Recreation and the athletics program at Franklin High School, Parker’s winning mantra has spread into every blade of grass at Armory Field.

Franklin’s playing field has become one of five Virginia High Schools, and 71 fields across the entire nation to be named a Pioneer Athletics “Field of Excellence.”

“It means a lot for the program,” said Franklin athletics director Dave Lease. “I always want the facilities to look as nice as they can, and so does Clay [Hyatt]. We want them to look nice and to represent Franklin very well.”

Hyatt is the athletics program specialist for the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

“To get recognition on a sports facility is pretty rare,” said Hyatt. “For myself, Dave [Lease] and the guys to get recognition is pretty special.”

He also wanted to recognize assistant football coach Justin Oliver; Franklin Public Works; Butch Turner, Hyatt’s predecessor; Mark Phillips of Franklin Turf; Keith O’Neal, who helps with the soil; Adam Nichols of Virginia Tech; and Scott Dodson of Turf and Garden.

“It’s a lot of work, especially in the summer time,” Hyatt said. “But we take pride in it. We would take pride in it whether we get recognized or not.”

Lease said he does the painting of the field and the F in the middle, and coach Oliver assists with the diamonds in the endzone. It was hard for Lease to describe how he felt about the field being one of a handful in the commonwealth and several dozen around the country to be recognized.

“That’s real special,” he said. “The way I look at it is that it’s out of fields for the whole United States. That’s an honor.”

Parks and Recreation Director Frank Davis said he was honored that the department was able to receive the national award.

“I personally know the amount of time that each of them puts into that field every week, and I observe it every year,” he said.

Davis is of course also a photographer and sports writer for The Tidewater News, and he’s often on the sideline for Broncos football. He said he often starts off shooting from the visitor’s side of the field.

“I hear the comments every week by being on the sideline, on just how good the field looks,” Davis said. “I guess when it comes down to it, we have one of the better facilities in our area, and this really validates that thought.”

High schools were not the only ones that competing, either. In Virginia, the Potomac Nationals field in Woodbridge also received an honor, as did the Averett University field.

Pioneer Athletics is an sports field company, and the award is to salute the men and women who work hard to make game day a special day by producing an exceptional field of play.