Batesville parks and rec director finds fun in work

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published May 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 3, 2013 at 1:39 p.m.
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Nick Hillemann

Jeff Owens is the parks and recreation director in Batesville. The city is working on a new recreational center and new baseball fields to open this summer. The diversity of working in parks and recreation is something that really appeals to Owens in his role, which he has been in for nearly two years.

— Jeff Owens of Batesville has a passion for sports.

His job as director of parks and recreation for the city of Batesville has allowed him to get paid for doing something he loves.

He grew up in Sikeston, Mo., but made his way to Arkansas when he went to college.

He began at Harding University in Searcy and later transferred to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where he got his start in the field of parks and recreation.

“I started out as the youth sports coordinator and worked my way up,” Owens said.

After working as the youth sports coordinator for the city of Jonesboro for about two years, he then moved up to assistant director of parks and recreation, then made his way into the director’s spot, where he stayed for 11 years.

Though he’s been in the Batesville Parks and Recreation director’s position for less than two years, he said he is thoroughly enjoying his time in the city.

“This job came open, and I liked this area,” Owens said. “It’s a gorgeous part of the country, and I knew the potential was there.”

Owens will hit his two-year anniversary with the Batesville Parks and Recreation Department in July.

The diversity of working in parks and recreation is one thing that drives Owens to come to work every day.

“My job changes every day,” Owens said. “My job is to find and create ways for people to spend leisure time and have fun. It never gets boring.”

Owens is in charge of the Batesville Golf Course; Riverside, Kennedy and West parks; the North Complex; baseball and softball fields; city pools; the youth soccer program; the adult softball program; and swimming lessons for the city’s residents.

Other than supervising the operation of the parks in the city, he is also overseeing construction of the new soccer and baseball complex and a new community center.

“Our new baseball complex will consolidate all youth diamond sports,” Owens said.

The new community center will offer a place for the people of Batesville to come together.

“Batesville never had a community center,” Owens said. “[The center] will have an inside, heated therapy pool, a kids play area and an Olympic-size swimming pool.”

Not only will the center include a place for city residents to cool off when the weather gets warm, it will also feature meeting and board rooms and a fitness center.

The community center is set to open to the public by the end of 2014, Owens said.

“People are incredibly excited about it,” Owens said. “I’m as excited as everyone else.”

The new baseball complex has opened up opportunities for Owens to be creative.

“We’re making this [center] unique to bring tourism to Batesville,” Owens said.

One part of the complex that Owens said he’s excited about is the baseball fields that will be available to children who play the sport. The fields are modeled after major league baseball fields, such as Wrigley Field.

“It’ll make the kids feel special. It’s not like a normal baseball field,” Owens said. “The extra effort drives the love of the game more.”

As the weather warms up, Owens schedule will get busier, he said.

“Spring is very busy,” Owens said. “We’ve got soccer and baseball going on, and we’re getting the pools ready for summer.”

Although originally from Missouri, Owens said he loves the Batesville area.

“I have great friends here, and the people are great,” Owens said. “When I moved here, I couldn’t believe the welcome I got.”

He has experienced the support of the Batesville community through some of the programs he’s proposed.

“We have a program in the summer called Movies in the Park,” Owens said. “I started looking for sponsors [for the program], and no one told me no.”

The people of Batesville want to see the city grow, Owens said.

“I’ve got so much support for what I’m doing with my job,” Owens said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

Owens’ love for sports also carries over into the fact that he loves to work on a team.

“I’ve found in Batesville that everyone works together,” Owens said. “I’ve never heard, ‘That’s not my job’ from anyone, and that makes working with people a lot easier.”

Working in parks and recreation also allows Owens to serve as a positive role model for children in the Batesville area.

“So many parents don’t spend a lot of time with their kids,” Owens said. “I enjoy being able to give the kids a place to come out and have fun.”

Owens said his parents presented him with extensive opportunities to pursue his dreams, and he wants to offer the same opportunities to the children of Batesville.

“I owe it to [my parents],” Owens said.

Coming up on 13 years of working in the field of parks and recreation, one might expect Owens to be tiring of his profession.

On the contrary, Owens said, “I get paid to help people have fun. What more could you ask for?”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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