Lou Ciurca has a vision. He's determined for it to be realized. He hopes Tucsonans, and for that matter, Southern Arizonans, play their part.
Emphasis on play. More specifically, play at Mike Jacob Sports Park, formerly known as Sports Park, where seas of cars used to be parked outside the facility as young and old played a variety of sports.
"I have a lot of things I want to do with this,” said Ciurca, the new general manager of the one-time sports hotspot for amateurs. "There are even things I don't want to talk about so not to give it away. But it's going to be great.
"What I want to have is a top-notch facility that will compare to the ones in Phoenix. I want to get a variety of groups in here. I want the seniors here. I want the youth here. They can use this place to practice.”
Three months into Ciurca's restarting of the park after more than a year of dormancy, it appears to be headed in the right direction. Players and their fans are slowly, if not steadily, coming back to hit a softball, play some volleyball, play flag football and more.
"I'd love to get some more soccer teams here,” he said.
He also realizes good things come to those who wait. And he knows it takes time for people to know and realize the bright lights at 6901 Casa Grande Highway are on for a reason – because people are back at the site playing ball.
Ciurca says more than 180 teams, including more than 100 softball teams have signed up for leagues. Back in its heyday – the late 1980s and early 1990s – there were more than 500 teams, beer was flowing and people were playing.
Well, beer and wine are back.
"We know that's important to the adults … I wouldn't have done it without it,” he said, quickly adding that ample security has been added.
Ciurca has added state-of-the-art lighting, music throughout the park, retractable fences and much more. It's a whole new experience.
"We're doing things to change the image,” he said.
Ciurca called the old image "frustrating” and one that lacked "communication” and was "disorganized.” Eventually the county took over, and then eventually it became what was the equivalent of a sports ghost town.
"It was not in operation for more than a year … that's bad for business,” he said.
Ciurca, a former teacher turned owner of Championship Sports and the company that runs the complex, wasn't sure he wanted to get into this business. But the competitor in him – he was a former athlete at Mountain View High School and a small college baseball player – thought it was a plausible proposition.
"The people encouraged me to do it,” he said. "I had been organizing baseball tournaments the past three or four years here in town, kind of reviving that locally. Then I got approached by girls fast pitch. … then more and more people said I had to do it. I just winded up doing it.”
Now, it's been a 24/7 job. But it's what he loves. And he's constantly thinking of things to improve on.
"I'm a guy who likes to think outside the box,” he said. "I want to see how I can better utilize the space and draw in all kinds of people and help the county by bringing in more people.”
It's a project he's ready and willing to take on. He'll use that vision of hits, runs and, well, as few errors as possible.