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Central Winds Park, Winter Springs, Fla. The Fields of Excellence

By Alan Greene, Parks Superintendent

For the opening ceremonies of the 27-acre expansion of Central Winds Park in Winter Springs, Fla. Spagnum moss topiaries for the Athlete's Walk of Fame were a very popular addition to the facility. Various plant plugs can also be added to these life size works of art to create colorful effects.
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In central Florida, nestled away in the City of Winter Springs, there is a jewel of a community park waiting to be discovered. Residents of Winter Springs are already familiar with it, since it is a centerpiece of the town. It is the Central Winds Park - "The Fields of Excellence" and it may be one of the most incredible finds in all of the Orlando area. Central Winds Park is a 103-acre complex situated about 20 minutes north of downtown Orlando. It contains two baseball fields, two softball fields, four soccer fields (all Tifway 419 Bermuda grass) and the parks and recreation offices.

Other features include two playgrounds, a nature trail, two sand volleyball courts, two horseshoe pits, an outdoor basketball court, two large pavilions, two concession stands and a ten-acre amphitheatre where you can spread out a blanket and watch bald eagles fly over or perch on a light pole. Added to the complex two years ago were two more baseball, softball and soccer fields, as well as two new football/lacrosse fields and grass parking. All of the fields are the sea dwarf variety of seashore paspalum grass on 27-acres.

Central Winds Park has been pleasing the 33,321+ residents of Winter Springs for thirteen years. The complex was built by the city with a three-million-dollar bond issued in 1992. It has grown right along with the city, becoming a gathering point for families throughout the area.

Perched on top of the 80-foot high Musco lighting system which illuminates the park's baseball fields, are two of the facility's more frequent visitors: a couple of American bald eagles (Haliaeetus leauccephalus). Although the birds frequently drop large fish and sticks onto the grounds they are still considered a part of the overall beauty of Central Winds.

Nearly every resident of Winter Springs has been impacted, either through the sports programs, the quiet passive area, the Fourth of July celebration or the numerous other special events hosted there. In addition to providing community activities, Central Winds Park is positioned adjacent to Winter Spring High School, which often utilizes the complex for big tournament games and special events.

Part of what makes Central Winds Park unique is the sheer beauty of the complex. The fields are a lush green. The flowerbeds are beautiful and the complex itself is thoroughly modern and immaculate in appearance.

The fences, sidewalks, foliage and buildings are designed, constructed and maintained. Visitors will be amazed that the complex is fourteen years old.

They very quickly feel right at home and in the mood to celebrate sports. Each set of fields has their own unique characteristics that deserve note.

For special events parking, up to 850 cars can be parked on the Expansion Practice Fields, which tests the toughness of the sea dwarf seashore paspalum grass. Heat from the vehicle's engines browns the grass beneath each car, which requires the maintenance crews to pay special attention to those areas when watering the turf.

The Details

The baseball fields are composed of Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, with an original infield cut similar to the Arizona Diamondbacks. They boast crimson stone warning tracks and bullpen areas. They are completely fenced and lit, with six 80-foot concrete poles with a total of 32 Musco SVC-Z, 1500-watt lamps.

There are two sets of aluminum bleachers, with a 180 person seating capacity and protective shade cloth. Score is kept on new remote electronic scoreboards from modern Plexiglas score booths. Each field is equipped with two ground level concrete dugouts, with drinking fountains. The softball fields carry the same level of quality as the baseball fields. These fields have a skinned clay infield and a 300-foot outfield fence with a clay-warning track.

Hurricane Francis brought lots of rainwater and is tough on scoreboards as seen here. The excess water from a storm is typically given 24 hours to percolate into the ground before being pushed off into the drainage system. This is done in order to avoid root rot, which can attract mosquitoes to the effected areas.

Six 80-foot concrete poles illuminate games, each with 40 Musco SVC-Z 1500-watt lamps. Seating capacity is 180 on aluminum bleachers, with protective shade cloth. Each softball field is equipped with the same remote electronic scoreboards as the baseball fields. Central Winds boasts four full-sized 330 foot by 195-foot soccer fields. Each lighted field is equipped with portable goals, portable team and spectator benches and drinking fountains.

The hurricanes of 2004 hit the park hard, Charley for example featured winds of 120 mph, which uprooted the park's trees. By the end of the season 82 trees were lost in Central Winds Park and 3,586.45 cubic yards of trees and branches were hauled away by park superintendent Alan Greene and his crew of eight full-time employees.

Awards and Recognition

For ten months every year, Central Winds Park uses these fields for a variety of baseball, softball and soccer programs - Babe Ruth baseball and softball, AAU baseball, and youth softball tournaments to name a few. During 2006, 2600 games were played at Central Winds Park, with nearly 130,000 participants and spectators.

The commitment to quality at the complex has brought praise from around the country. Twice the park has been the recipient of the " Award of Excellence" by the Fields of Excellence Program. John Deere recently chose Central Winds Park as the featured complex in its JD Sidelines Magazine.

The hot spots that are visible in this picture are from dips in the re-claimed water pressure. To solve this problem water is pumped out of the neighboring Lake Jesup. A Hoover Pump Station with 2-30 H.P. 3 Phase Centrifugal Pump that has an 8" suction line. This allows the park to pump 600 gallons per minute.

Michael Hurd of the City of Winter Haven, home of the Cleveland Indians spring training complex, was also extremely impressed. "In my years in the sports turf industry, having been to complexes all over the United States and Canada, their complex stands out as one of the best - if not THE best."

Central Winds Park was also selected by the Sports Turf Managers Association as the best parks and recreation sports complex in the nation in 2004 and given a Green Star Award by the Professional Grounds Management Society in 2006.

Chelsea uses a John Deere 3235-B five-gang fairway mower to experiment with striping patterns on the Perennial Rye. Weather permitting, the fields are mowed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at a one-inch height of cut. Pattern direction is changed each time to ensure proper growth, eliminate compaction and to guarantee a professional appearance.

Upkeep and Maintenance

However, the praise does not come easily. There is an incredible amount of work that goes into the upkeep and maintenance of the fields and the entire park. Many view Florida as an ideal vacation spot, however residents of the state can easily understand the difficulties of keeping any kind of vegetation thriving in a subtropical climate.

Winter brings sudden freezes and months of very dry weather, which very easily can kill an entire field. Spring and summer are known for their sudden, violent thunderstorms and local flooding. In addition, Florida averages temperatures in the mid to upper 90's for half of the year.

On top of all of those variables, Florida is in a prime tropical storm and hurricane zone. Lastly, central Florida is known as " The Lightning Capital of the World" - which wreaks havoc with electrical, computerized and timed systems. It is not easy to judge the weather and to determine how exactly to work the fields.

Alan Greene, parks superintendent and his crew of eight full-time staff members are dedicated to the fields and grounds maintenance schedules of Central Winds Park located in Winter Springs, Fla. Repair and maintenance to the grounds includes money to purchase fertilizers, insect and weed control, annuals, tree work, rye grass seed, etc. that keeps the entire park healthy and looking excellent year round.

This is where parks superintendent Alan Greene and his crew of eight full-time staff members come into play. It would have been very easy for the fields to be destroyed repeatedly by the years of 50-plus inches of rain, severe droughts and even four big hurricanes. However, Central Winds Park has been able to stay as beautiful as even the most expensive professional or college-owned complex thanks to the care and training of its dedicated staff.

Central Winds Park is truly a treasure to the area of Central Florida. It is a place for the community as a whole to come together. As cities are more and more spread out, local sports programs and beautiful multi-purpose parks, become increasingly important for communities to stay together. Thanks to top-notch sports programs and events at Central Winds Park, the city of Winter Springs is able to stay a close-knit community. It is more than just a place to play - it is a place for lives to be touched. That is a responsibility Central Winds takes seriously, and one that they do with excellence.

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October 17, 2019, 9:10 am PDT

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