- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

SARTELL, Minn. (AP) - For anyone who remembers what it used to look like just a couple years ago, Pinecone Central Park has undergone a remarkable transformation.

Just a few years removed from being a closed golf course that the city of Sartell purchased in 2008, it is now a nearly complete youth sports mecca, the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/2eeUXL8 ) reported.

There are four meticulously preened youth baseball fields, specifically sized for children, with the base paths shorter and portable mounds made to be adjusted for the appropriate age group. And, there are plans for two more intermediate youth fields for ages 13-15.

There are six gleaming, green soccer fields at Pinecone Central Park, which is on the grounds of the old Sartell Golf Course, with two soccer pitches for beginners, two intermediate youth fields and two regulation fields. There are also cross country ski trails and a dog park.

Behind the work for the city of Sartell is ProFields LLC, a start-up company by Brian Deyak of St. Cloud. Deyak helped manage the St. Cloud Municipal Athletic Complex for 26 years before resigning in the fall of 2015.

“I want to take a little of the MAC with me and help them get to that level,” Deyak said of the Pinecone Central Park project.

Deyak started working at the MAC part-time in 1982 as a high school student and became transfixed by athletic fields and field maintenance. He’s a St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud State graduate who made his career’s work overseeing the MAC’s two baseball stadiums, Joe Faber and Dick Putz Fields. He also took on restoring the Veterans Administration Golf Course, all the while managing about 70 part-time employees as a city of St. Cloud employee.

“I had been thinking about starting my own company for years,” Deyak said. “I knew I couldn’t do it and be at the MAC.”

Later, he added: “I wish I had done this 10 years ago.”

The Sartell project at Pinecone Central Park, which just completed its fourth year of youth baseball, is immense. The city initially spent $8.6 million to convert the park from being a golf course.

ProFields has a seasonal staff of 20. This summer, it ran the concessions stand, managed by Deyak’s daughter Remington, a College of St. Benedict student. His son Reggie, a St. Cloud Cathedral student, also works at Pinecone Central Park in field maintenance and field preparation.

“It’s a lot, more than I imagined,” Deyak said. “It’s an exciting piece of property and it’s exciting to meet people who appreciate what you’re doing.”

He said he is dedicated to making the fields athlete-friendly and safe. The grass is commonly mowed to less than 2 inches, the level of pro sports and major college stadiums. It’s what athletes say they want, he said. Field equipment able to handle that kind of preparation is important, he said.

Deyak has “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in equipment, including a field groomer, an aerator, a terrain cut mower, sprayers and various tractors, almost all John Deere models.

The results are evident.

“The results have been astonishing,” said Jason Mathiasen, who owns Great River Bowl and Partners Pub in Sartell and also is a volunteer on the Pinecone Central Park board of directors. “We couldn’t be happier.”

The goal is to have the best youth soccer and baseball fields in the state, Mathiasen said. Deyak’s experience in field maintenance and running big events at the MAC made his involvement in the project a no-brainer, he said.

“When you hear a ‘wow’ or ‘what a difference’ or ‘good job,’ that drives a person,” Deyak said.

Mathiasen said the city sees the Pinecone Central Park sports facilities as an opportunity to lure major youth sports events to Sartell. He said that word of mouth could make the facility a destination point each summer for youth sports organizations in the Upper Midwest.

ProFields also has worked on the St. John’s University soccer pitch as well as the College of St. Benedict, where Deyak’s wife Julie works.

Besides Pinecone Central Park, ProFields has done Sartell school district work including “all mowing, herbicide treatments and fertilizer treatments at Oak Ridge Elementary School’s baseball and softball fields,” according to Deyak.

“I’m really not re-inventing the wheel,” Deyak said. “I’m really doing what I used to be doing.”

ProFields has done similar work on the baseball and softball fields at Pine Meadow Elementary School.

ProFields also has done maintenance on the Hidden Lake Baseball Park in St. Augusta, working with the St. Cloud Blue Sox travel baseball organization.

Deyak has done work for St. Cloud Cathedral’s Rau Field, where the Crusaders’ football team practices and worked on Cathedral’s soccer field (Whitney Field No. 12).

He also has done several one-day jobs, helping get Sauk Rapids’ varsity softball field ready for the playoffs, the same for Apollo. Both had to play on Memorial Day and were requested by the schools, which had no available staff because of the holiday.

He welcomes more projects. ProFields has a website, www.ProFieldsMN.com and is on Twitter @ProFieldsLLC.

Yes, he’s busy. Deyak enjoys it.

“It is a 20-hour/7-day-a-week job, like it or not,” he said. “It just about has to be if you want it to be of high quality.

“What my company does is provide that.”

Mathiasen said Deyak’s personality and attention to detail have made him easy to work with. He has good rapport with the board, the school district and the city of Sartell.

The remarks please Deyak.

“It’s refreshing,” Deyak said. “It’s fun when people want you to be there and not take it for granted and that you’re respected for what you do. …

“It’s so much fun when users are excited about what you’re doing and they appreciate what you’re doing. That’s the best.”

___

Information from: St. Cloud Times, https://www.sctimes.com


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