NA park director dismissed

The New Albany Park Commission director has been dismissed amid a management restructuring at BNA Bank Park.

Kevin Crawford’s last day of work was Friday at the recently expanded sportsplex that now includes 10 baseball fields, five soccer fields, a tennis complex and a children’s spray park.

“It’s really nothing against Kevin; the Board (of Aldermen) decided to go in a different direction,” Mayor Tim Kent said, adding that Crawford’s job had been eliminated and the duties split between other positions. The vote of the board was unanimous, he said.

Charles Brunetti, a well-known sports turf manager who at one time was the assistant director of grounds for the Boston Red Sox, has been hired as director of grounds and maintenance under a $3,000-a-month contract, Kent said. Brunetti started his new job on Monday, but has been working for some time to help the city install the new soccer fields.

Johnny Epting, who has been Crawford’s assistant, will be director of operations at the park, and all six full-time employees will remain under the new management structure, the mayor said.

“We just haven’t been happy for some time with the way all of the fields looked,” Kent said. “Brunetti is an expert at this kind of work.”

A minor factor in the board’s decision also was unhappiness that the children’s spray park was not open on Memorial Day weekend, he said.

The mayor said Brunetti will do some of the turf management work himself and will supervise other park employees in improving the fields and general landscaping.

“If it grows, he’s in charge of it,” he said.

Kent said the city will save some money under the new arrangement because Crawford was being paid $43,000 and had city insurance and retirement benefits.

When reached by telephone, Crawford had no comment at this time on his departure.

The Board of Aldermen also has hired Bo Bowman of Biloxi to manage the new tennis complex at BNA Bank Park. He will start Aug. 15.

Bowman, named both Mississippi Tennis Pro of the Year and Southern Tennis Pro of the Year for the nine southern states, was a “lucky find,” the mayor said. Bowman’s wife is originally from the area and the family wanted to move here, he said.

Bowman is committed to operating 15 major tennis tournaments a year in New Albany and will have the largest tennis pro shop in the region, Kent said.

The city will pay Bowman $33,000 a year, but much of the tennis pro’s income will come from part of the tournament revenue as well as offering tennis lessons, Kent said.

 The tennis tournaments are expected to give a significant boost to tourism and sales tax revenues for the city and help the hospitality industry, the mayor said.