For over 20 years the NWTRPA Awards Program has been celebrating and recognizing recreation professionals and volunteers in northern communities for their efforts and achievements in promoting recreation and active living for all northerners. This feature of Rob Johnson is the second in a series of profiles of the 2020 NWTRPA Award Winners. Rob is the 2020 winner of the Award of Excellence for his work on the Tommy Forest ballpark in Sǫ̀mba K’è / Yellowknife, NT.
Over a number of years, Rob Johnsonh spearheaded the park revitalization plan at Tommy Forrest ballpark in Sǫ̀mba K’è / Yellowknife.
The revitalization included a full restoration of the ballpark's infield and outfield, new bleachers, a new backstop, a minor ball storage building, a new beer garden area, a new batting cage, and a new community playground!
The park's revitalization has turned an eyesore in the middle of Yellowknife into one of the nicest looking outdoor facilities in the territory, and Rob has been in the very centre of it: directing the park improvement projects, working with local government and business to complete projects, and, very often, doing the work himself.
Thanks to Rob's tireless efforts taking part in the fundraising, meeting with government officials, planning projects, and executing improvements, a community green space right in the heart of Yellowknife is improved and preserved. It's thanks to Rob that it's a true centrepiece of the city's summer parks and recreation facilities.
Along with the park improvement, and interest in the area and fastball spiked. NWT Softball says their junior program has grown from 70 players to 200 (and a waiting list), the men's league has grown, and teams have travelled from as far as Alberta for tournaments. Children are constantly on the playground. NWT tourism is using photos of it in their promotional material and Softball Canada has approached them to host a Western Canadian Championship.
Rob has been involved in the baseball and fastball community for decades. From helping run the local men's recreational league back in the 1980s and 1990s, to single-handedly keeping the city's Little League baseball program afloat in the early 2000s, to serving as the umpire-in-chief for NWT Softball for the last several years—all in addition to his work on the field improvement project! The man is truly passionate about the sport and his influence is felt all over programming not just in Yellowknife but the broader Northwest Territories.
What is your relationship with recreation?
I have been in recreational sports for most of my life. Baseball, Fastball and hockey mostly. I have enjoyed volunteering in roles around recreational sports since I moved to Yellowknife in 1991.
Why is recreation important to you?
Sport is a great way to connect with people. Most of my long-lasting relationships have come from sports.
What are your favourite ways to stay active?
I still enjoy tennis, squash, and golf; along with umpiring fastball.
What is one random fact about yourself?
I was married in a small town in Washington State.
What do you envision for the future of recreation in your community (or the NWT)?
I see that recreation in Yellowknife has continued to grow since my time in the NWT. Fastball, specifically, is staying alive and doing well despite most of the country's declining numbers.
What would be the hardest thing for you to give up for a week?
Not playing a sport or being part of a sport would be pretty tough. I could probably take a week but not much more.
If you could have any superpower what would it be?