When Ben Huffman of West Chester finished college at Miami University in 2001, he planned to teach. Armed with his degree in education, he was hired at Greenon Local Schools in Enon to teach math at the high school level and coach girls basketball, another passion of his.
“I had a great experience at Greenon,” Huffman said. “But ultimately I wanted to be involved in college sports.”
Huffman returned to Miami where he snagged a graduate assistantship working with the university’s alumni from across the country. And during his time there, he met Becca, the woman who would become his wife. He earned his master’s degree in 2005.
“I realized that the college basketball career was going to be a difficult path,” Huffman, who would go on to have five children of his own, said. “I wanted to set down roots and make a difference in my community.
Fast forward to August of 2016 and Huffman was connected through a colleague with the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau (WCCVB). He immediately felt that working with kids and sports teams was a great fit for him professionally.
“It was intriguing to me, and I was excited about promoting youth sports,” Huffman said. “Youth sports can also bring in a lot of money for the local community.”
Today Huffman is the director of sports marketing with the WCCVB and has seen incredible change over the years since he began his career with “Ohio’s Largest Playground.”
“When I first started, we did about eight events annually that generated about $1 million,” Huffman said. “I had one person working on my team. Today we have about 50 events annually and I have seven people on the team.”
And during his tenure, WCCVB began and completed the process of opening a new facility – the Warren County Sports Park, located in Lebanon. Huffman was involved in the project from the onset, helping to get funding and supporting the building and grand opening of the new facility in February of 2020.
“We opened the facility during an incredibly challenging time,” Huffman said. “We all hunkered down and got through it and by fall of 2020, we were open full time.”
A major goal of the sports park is to generate out-of-town visitor spending. And Huffman and his team help facilitate that, marketing the facility, the only one of its kind in Southern Ohio, as a place to host championship events.
With 14 multipurpose fields, mostly for baseball but a few for soccer and Lacrosse, the facility requires constant maintenance to ensure it remains a destination park. A big game changer for the facility was the introduction of a robot to paint the lines on the fields, eliminating the need for manual painting and increasing accuracy.
“This year, we will have a million guests visiting the park,” Huffman said. “I got to know William Knox, who runs Grand Park sports campus in Westfield, Indiana. We share a lot in our industry, and he suggested using a Turf Tank robot.”
The Turf Tank Robot was created to ease the burden on sports park managers, eliminating the need for measuring, pulling strings and pushing a marking machine. Huffman watched it in action at Grand Park and was intrigued.
“The robot paints for us,” Huffman said. “We can schedule it to run and work around the weather and it’s super accurate.”
And since painting the lines in season is at least a once or twice a week job, it saves time so staff people can focus on other things.
“The only thing you have to watch is when it runs out of paint,” Huffman said.
Turf Tank Director of Marketing Simon Christensen said that his company is gratified to see their robots aren’t only helping their clients on the field, but also how much they are helping kids who play on the fields.
“With Turf Tank, Ben Huffman and the turf managers are able to focus their attention on making sure the fields are in tip-top shape for the kids,” Christensen said.
As for Huffman, the robot may be taking care of the field painting, but he said it’s the people on his team that work the hardest.
“I’m blessed to have the staff I do, and this has been such a fun project,” Huffman said. “This park is a huge benefit to the community.”
For more information, log on to turftank.com
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