GREEN BAY – Packers fields manager Allen Johnson recently received one of the Sports Turf Managers Association’s Founders Awards, recognizing him as a top individual in his field.
At the STMA’s annual conference, held in Florida in January, Johnson was named the Dick Ericson Award winner for his contributions to the industry.
Johnson just completed his 23rd season working for the Packers, and the STMA honored him for his “creative practices” as a “problem-solver,” according to the association’s website. Johnson is just the second NFL employee to receive the Ericson Award since its inception in 1997. Tony Leonard of the Philadelphia Eagles was the other in 2014.
“It’s an honor, for sure, just to be recognized by your peers,” said Johnson, a former STMA board member and president. “They know how hard this job is and they know what you’ve accomplished. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is in the weather we have.
“It’s an individual recognition, but to me it’s shared with Mark Murphy and Russ Ball, who are incredibly supportive, and our whole crew.”
That crew includes assistants Bart Bartelme, Derek Paris and Ryan Blise, along with horticulture technician Joe Ranthum.
Ericson, the award’s namesake, was the STMA’s first president who maintained Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn., for both the Twins and Vikings for two decades and is a member of the MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame. Ericson is one of four founders of the STMA.
“The vision those guys had – when you think about the fields way back when, the condition they were in and the technology and resources, they didn’t have a lot,” Johnson said. “These select few wanted to become better at their craft, and they thought by joining together and sharing ideas and best practices, they could become better themselves, bring awareness, and make a job into a profession. Over time, that’s what it really has become.”
Johnson’s next big project is rebuilding the Packers’ two outdoor practice fields, Clarke Hinkle Field and Ray Nitschke Field, over the next year. Both fields are having an SIS Grass field installed so they’re the same as Lambeau Field, which had the SIS Grass installed in 2018.
Work on Hinkle Field, which will have a heating system installed underneath the whole surface, is already well underway. When completed, it will become the team’s practice field for the entire regular season.
As soon as the 2020 training camp ends, work will begin on Nitschke Field so it will be ready for training camp in 2021.