The bright-green field two blocks east of Johnson-Brock High School in Johnson is a tribute to what a community can do when everyone contributes.
It started with the vision of a few people, and then the spirit of the whole community helped make the dream a reality.
“My idea was that we could show folks it could be repeated elsewhere,” said Jim Gerking, whose Entire Recycling business donated the rubber for the artificial turf field, along with Gerking’s expertise at installing fields.
The Johnson-Brock Board of Education considered sodding or reseeding the existing field, but there were problems.
Gerking estimated artificial grass at a cost of $254,000 and asked the board to commit to 25 percent of the cost.
“Because of community support and volunteer resources of equipment and labor, the cost has remained very close to the estimate,” Gerking said.
The communities of Johnson and Brock, barely 500 people strong between them, came out in droves.
The area was surveyed, ground was broken and Land Construction of Lincoln removed the dirt, which was hauled to nearby ball fields by volunteer drivers with dump trucks lined up for the chore.
The drainage pipe, donated by Hahn Construction and Entire Recycling, was laid and topped with rock transported by Nemaha County employees and leveled by Laser Struck Company of Diller.
“Soon after the first batch of rock was down and leveled, we had the big 3 1/2-inch rain to test the drain system, which worked just fine,” Gerking said. “Sure wish we could have repeated a rain like that a few weeks later.”
Thanks to donations from the local bank and elevator, Gerking was able to order the “JB Eagles” inlay in the center of the field. Goal posts from Nebraska Wesleyan University were rebuilt for the eight-man field.
“The three installers from Chicago said they never had so many onlookers watching then install a field,” Gerking said.
Community involvement continues. Johnson-Brock principal Jackie Kelsay said local farmers pitched in on a fundraiser set for Friday night, before the Eagles’ season opener with Sterling.
“One farmer gave a hog to be raffled and another farmer gave two hogs to do a tailgate supper with a free-will donation,” she said. “Funding is right where they expected it to be.
“Jeff Koehler (school superintendent) wrote an eloquent story for the local paper and sold the idea to the naysayers.”
Gerking and his wife, Deanne, live on a farm west of Brock and watched all four children graduate from Johnson-Brock and five of their nine grandchildren have done the same.
“Our daughter, Karen Wolken, teaches there and we’re still highly involved,” Deanne Gerking said. “Johnson had a lot of community spirit. It didn’t just come with this field.”
Football coach Brett Davis said the result isn’t just a pretty place to play Friday nights.
“We don’t have to be running back and forth trying to find a decent patch of grass to run our drills,” Davis said. “We can get everybody going and (it) shaves off a lot of time and makes our practices more efficient.”
The results of this community effort are plain as day.
“Last spring, when we knew this passed the board, the kids were excited. This summer they could see the progress,” Davis said. “The guys have an extra bounce in their step. And it’s amazing how much faster they look on that playing surface.”