- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Mike Reno is an artist, from painting an end zone every year at the Super Bowl, to carefully manicuring Dozer Park nightly for Peoria Chiefs games.

Fitting, for a guy who graduated with a degree in sculpture from Arizona State University. Super Bowl end zones are his canvas. Dozer Park is his gallery.

“I like to be outside,” said Reno, 35, a St. Louis native now in his fifth season presiding over the Chiefs home field as head groundskeeper. “The beauty of a natural field, there’s nothing like it.”

There’s few like Reno, either. He went to college at ASU and attended a job fair there in hopes of finding work to help pay for his loans. “I saw some cheerleaders and went over there to talk to them, honestly,” Reno said. “They recruited me for the stadium grounds crew.

“And so it began.”

His boss at ASU, Pete Wozniak, was contracted by the NFL to be part of the league’s 30-man grounds crew for the Super Bowl in 2002. He took Reno with him.

Since then, Reno’s specialty has been to paint one of the end zones each year at the Super Bowl. The last four team names he’s painted - Patriots, Seahawks, Ravens, Giants - have all won.

“They bring guys in from all over the country to work on that crew,” said Reno, who lives in central Illinois with his wife, Nikki, who is a Caterpillar Inc. exec, and their son, Alexavier, 3, and newborn daughter, Everley. “It’s a great atmosphere, a lot of precision and technique that you can pick up.”

Like how to deal with a crisis. When Pittsburgh faced Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009 in Tampa, Fla., the Steelers were assigned to practice at University of South Florida during the week.

“That field was a disaster, patches of dirt here and there, a mess,” Reno said. “We worked it into great shape and had it ready to go. And then the ninjas attacked.

“The Steelers were to practice for the first time in the morning, but the night before, a group somehow scaled the fences and walls, got into the stadium, and painted a large, well, male body part, at midfield.

“We discovered it in the morning and the only thing we could think of to do with it was create a Steelers logo there and blend it in. No one ever knew.”

Now that’s teamwork. And Reno says he leans heavily on the team he built to take care of Dozer Park for the Midwest League’s Chiefs.

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Source: (Peoria) Journal-Star, https://bit.ly/1cBdxbD

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Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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