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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Blakeslee Stadium is 2013 Field of the Year

Honor awarded by Minnesota Park and Sports Managers Turf Association.

2014-03-03
Jim Rueda, Mankato Free Press, 1-27-2014

Bruce Leivermann is one of those guys that just about all of us take for granted.

Every game the Minnesota State University, Mankato football team wins, every East-West football game that comes off without a hitch, every Minnesota Vikings practice that entertains fans during the summer is directly related to the job that Leivermann and his staff do. As head groundskeeper at Minnesota State Mankato, Leivermann is responsible for making sure that the athletes have a safe, quality field on which to play each time they step on the grass.

While most of us don’t give a second thought to field conditions when we’re watching a game, there are some who take notice. The Minnesota Park and Sports Managers Turf Association is an entity that makes sure the hard work of groundskeepers does not go unnoticed.

Two weeks ago, at the association’s annual meeting inside the Minneapolis Convention Center, the organization took time out to recognize Leivermann and his staff for the work they’ve done at Minnesota State Mankato. When the awards portion of the meeting rolled around, Minnesota State Mankato’s Blakeslee Stadium (pictured) was honored with the 2013 Minnesota Field of the Year Award.

“It’s something you take pride in,” Leivermann, 53, said. “It’s a recognition of what we and the staff do to keep this place top notch.

“We tried to apply for the award last year, too, but we missed the deadline. This year we got everything in on time and we won.”

There are three main criteria the association looks at when bestowing the annual award:

1. Resourcefulness of staff, budget, maintenance practices as well as challenges in the management of the athletic field.

2. Condition and aesthetics of the athletic field.

3. Number and type of games and/or events taking place on the field.

Leivermann emphasizes that the award isn’t just his but belongs to the entire groundskeeping crew at Minnesota State Mankato. The staff consists of five full-timers and seven part-time workers. In addition to himself, the other full-timers are Bernie Kozitza, Dean Becker, Jon VanThuyne and Jacob Button.

While Blakeslee Stadium may be the crown jewel of the Minnesota State Mankato campus when it comes to athletic fields, the groundskeeping staff is responsible for maintaining virtually all of the outdoor athletic facilities on campus. The job encompasses about 34 acres of turf and includes everything from intramural rugby and soccer fields to taking care of the Minnesota State Mankato softball and baseball fields.

Leivermann has been doing groundskeeping work for nearly 35 years so it’s no surprise he’s good at what he does. Originally from Minneapolis, he graduated from the University of Minnesota at Waseca with a degree in horticulture and sports management.

He then worked in the metro area in the golf and landscape industry for a number of years before moving to Mankato in 1999. He’s now in his third year as the head groundskeeper at Minnesota State Mankato.

Leivermann said he was attracted to the Minnesota State Mankato job for two reasons: He knows that high-caliber athletes demand excellence and he enjoys the campus setting.

“Our experience with Bruce and his crew has been terrific,” Minnesota State Mankato director of athletics Kevin Buisman said. “Bruce is fairly new to us here at Minnesota State Mankato but he’s already one of the best in the business. He and his crew are very deserving of this honor.”

While the Minnesota State Mankato groundskeeping crew isn’t in it for the awards, Leivermann admits it’s nice to get a little recognition.

“It shows they appreciated all the hard work we do,” he said. “We received a little plaque and there’s an article about the field on the website. It’s a nice little pat on the back.”

Buisman said it’s a well-deserved pat.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at www.mankatofreepress.com.

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