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Sprinker Recreation Center. 1976A Rich Story
The $2.5 million Sprinker Recreation Center was dedicated on July 16, 1976, when the doors of the 74,500 square foot facility opened to the public with ceremonies and an open house.

That dedication added a regulation ice arena, four indoor tennis courts, five racquetball / handball courts, five multi-purpose rooms for classes and activities, and a fully-equipped pottery room (which is no longer there) to the 30-acre outdoor complex that previously opened in June of 1969.

The outdoor facility boasts a huge variety of amenities including eight softball fields, one baseball field, six football / soccer fields, six tennis courts, four pickleball courts, eight horseshoe pits, and an all-weather 1/4 mile track. Spire Rock, one of the first such climbing facilities in the state, was later added. Automatic batting cages were added in 1983.

Sprinker has always striven to provide the best and latest recreational opportunities for the public by hosting graduation parties, carnivals, district and state high school athletic championships, and state and regional slowpitch tournaments, to name a few.

It has also been the site of Lakewood Winter Club hosted figure skating competitions featuring Olympic medallists Rosalynn Sumners and Brian Boitano. And former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn even participated in a skating exhibition. Sprinker provided practice ice for the W.I.L.'s Tacoma Rockets and NHL teams as well. Internationally known ice skating coach Kathy Casey was Skating Director for many years and over the years numerous other dignitaries and sports personalities have made appearances at the center.

All of this was only a dream in 1959 when Pierce County Commissioners Fritz Geiger, Emmett Burks and Harry Sprinker acquired the 408 acre Spanaway Park from the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma. The sale of property, along with a $1.5 million bond issue, were the primary funds used to finance the purchase, resulting in the designation of the Spanaway Park area as a multi-purpose, family-oriented recreation area to include the Sprinker Recreation Center.

A master Development Plan for the complex was adopted in 1963 under the supportive efforts of Sprinker, Geiger and Patrick Gallagher, who had jointed the Board of Commissioners. Construction of the site began in 1967. During a commissioners meeting on March 3, 1968, Commissioners Wallace Ramsdell and Gallagher presented a surprise resolution naming the center in honor of Harry Sprinker, a commissioner from 1948-69, because of his dedication to the county's efforts to expand the park system and build the center.

Harry Sprinker, the Center's Namesake
Harry H. Sprinker Harry H. Sprinker was known throughout the State of Washington as 'Mr. County Commissioner' serving for 22 years in that capacity. Perhaps one of his biggest accomplishments was the establishment of the county's first park and recreation department. Through his efforts, Pierce County first obtained Spanaway Park, then added American Lake Park and other parcels of land. He was instrumental in the planning and building of the Sprinker Recreation Center.

Harry Sprinker also was instrumental in the construction of the County City Building, Mountain View Hospital (now the Pierce County Health Department), the Fox Island Bridge, lodging at Paradise on Mt. Rainier, as well as the erection of the day lodge there and the establishment of a county road system.

Harry Sprinker was born in Ellinwood, Kansas, in 1896. He attended the Kansas City College of Business Administration. His first job was a traveling claims adjuster for an insurance company but the Great Depression cost him his job and he came west. He opened an office in the Puget Sound Bank Building, in downtown Tacoma then moved to the Fidelity Building. This move was the catalyst which started his political career. John Binns, county chairman, who had an office on the same floor of the Fidelity Building, encouraged Sprinker to run for the office of county commissioner.

Mr. Sprinker served with eight other commissioners during the 22 year period from 1948-1969. Harry Sprinker passed away in 1991, at the age of 95.

Thomas A. CrossFirst Parks & Recreation Director 
Thomas A. Cross career included serving 23 years spanning from the department's inception in 1958-1981.

Prior to that he began his career in 1947 with the Metro Parks District as an Athletic Supervisor.

Mr. Cross was instrumental in the development of the Lake Spanaway Golf Course, Sprinker Recreation Center, Gonyea Playfield, Spanaway Park, Harry Todd Park, Forest Park, Lakewood Active Park, the Lakewood Community Center, acquisition of the boat launch and seaplane base at North American Lake and worked with Lakewood Kiwanis toward developing Kiwanis Park. He worked to negotiate a lease with the State of Washington for Fort Steilacoom Park and Fort Steilacoom Golf Course for the recreational pleasure of the general public.

Cross brought the department from a $40,000 budget, 10 sites, 107 acres, 1650' of waterfront to a $1.5 million budget, 43 sites, 1800 acres and 60,000' of waterfront at the time of his retirement in January of 1981.

Mr. Cross used his foresight to establish the Cooperative Agreements with the School Districts to share facilities and established the Area Directors as the liaisons to benefit the youth of the school district. He worked with the citizens and community service groups to provide recreation programs, playground equipment and the development of facilities.

The formation of the Pierce County Recreation Association (PCRA) was Tom's idea. It was created to purchase items, such as trophies and awards, that the county could not legally do at that time. The monies were derived from the operation of the concessions at the various parks and a percentage of the team entries. Through the PCRA the carousel that was at Spanaway Park was purchased, as was the Kidmobile and Skatemobile.

High School photoA graduate of Stadium High School and the College of Puget Sound, Tom played for the Tacoma Mountaineers in 1946, Tacoma's only professional basketball team. Tom officiated in the PAC-10 for more than 30 years in both football and basketball. he worked several post season bowl games, including the 1963 and 1973 Rose Bowls. He was also a longtime member of the Tacoma Athletic Commission. In the formative years of the Department, Tom wrote a weekly column for the Tacoma News Tribune called 'Rec Hi Lites.'

Thomas A. CrossIn honor of Tom's life to parks the Thomas A. Cross Parks and Recreation Endowment Fund was created. This fund is a lasting legacy to a man who knew the benefits of 'play.' Throughout his life, Tom strove to ensure that all Pierce County residents should have numerous and wildly varied opportunities for recreation. Please join us in acknowledging his work while providing for future generations with a donation.

Tom passed away in December of 2003. In his last years he was able to see the Tom Cross Endowment Fund grow and was pleased to know that this endowment will benefit future generations.

Tom Cross Ballfields
Pierce County Parks and Recreation completed construction of two state-of-the-art softball fields at Sprinker Recreation Center in May 2002. The new ballfields were named the Tom Cross Ballfields in honor of his vision, devotion and his untiring efforts on behalf of youth, recreation, sports and community.

Ballfield Dedication
Ballfield dedicationPierce County Parks honored Mr. Cross in a dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 6, 2002 on the fields at Sprinker. Speakers included the former Director of Pierce County Parks Jan Wolcott, former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, former Pierce County Councilmembers Wendell Brown and Kevin Wimsett and Former General Manager of Tacoma Baseball Club Stan Naccarato.

Many friends and prestigious members of the community came out to honor and show their affection to the man known as 'Mr. Recreation' in Pierce County.

Ballfield Construction
Constructed with state-of-the-art softball equipment in mind, fence distances are set symmetrically at 310 feet to accommodate the 'best of the best' slowpitch players as well as boy's baseball and girl's fastpitch games. The Musco lighting system was selected to minimize neighborhood intrusion and a complex irrigation system and extensive underground drainage system will enhance the maintenance of the fields as well as reduce the impact of surrounding areas. Covered dugouts have been installed and the infields contain a mixture of turface and sandy loam soil designed to recover quickly from inclement conditions.

The total cost of the ballfield project was $1,154,893 with key grants received from the Youth for Athletic Facilities Fund (Inter-Agency Committee for Outdoor Recreation), the Ben B. Cheney Foundation, the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Foundation, the Tacoma Athletic Commission, and the Tacoma Rainiers Community Fund. Additional funds were also provided by Pierce County.

The popularity of Sprinker is evident in the fact that in 2001 over 125,000 participants and spectators used the Sprinker ballfield complex for a variety of sports endeavors. The addition of two new fields will enhance the overall program and afford more players, young and old, to enjoy one of the most comprehensive recreational facilities in the Pacific Northwest.

TriviaSprinker Trivia
  • More than one million ice skaters have glided on the ice during public sessions in the past 24 years.
  • Sprinker's indoor facility is 74,500 sq. ft. and the outdoor complex encompasses 30 acres.
  • In 1976, ice skating admission was $2 per adult, $1.5 for student/seniors/military and $1.00 for children, skate rental was 50 cents. Today the cost is $6 for adults, $5 for students 12-17, $4 for seniors and children 11 and under and skate rental is $2.
  • Sprinker's ice arena is a 1/2 of an acre and consist of a 4 inch clasp of concrete with 9 3/4 miles of pipe embedded in the slab that carries freon throughout the system to produce a sheet of ice. In addition to ice skating, it has been used for hockey, curling, speed skating, and broom hockey.
  • The Zamboni (that great big machine that scrapes and cleans the ice during each public skating session) holds 197 gallons of ice making water and 100 gallons of wash water to do an ice cut. The Zamboni resurfaces the ice by picking up loose ice, washing the ice and laying water for new ice.
  • Over 5 million people have entered the gates of Sprinker over the past 20 years to participate and spectate.
  • Jim Zorn, former Seattle Seahawks quarterback, participated in the 10th anniversary celebration of Sprinker by performing in a figure skating exhibition with Rosalynn Sumners, Olympic Silver Medalist.
  • In 1996 Sprinker hosted 9 all night high school graduation parties and 15 junior high/middle/elementary school year-end parties.
  • Nicole Bobek, 1995 Ladies World Bronze Medalist and 1995 U.S. Champion, and Todd Eldredge, 1996 Men's World Champion and three-time U.S. Men's Champion, practiced at Sprinker for their 'Nutcracker on Ice' performance in the Tacoma Dome.

New Ballfield Dedication
Sprinker Dedicates New Ballfields to Tom Cross
Pierce County Parks was pleased to honor Mr. Cross in a dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 6, 2002 on the fields at Sprinker. Speakers include Director of Pierce County Parks Jan Wolcott, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, Pierce County Councilmembers Wendell Brown and Kevin Wimsett and Former General Manager of Tacoma Baseball Club Stan Naccarato.

Many friends and prestigious members of the community came out to honor and show their affection to the man known as 'Mr. Recreation' in Pierce County.

The new state-of-the-art softball fields are officially named the Thomas A. Cross Ballfields for the first director of Parks Department from 1958 to 1981, in honor of his vision, devotion and his untiring efforts on behalf of youth, recreation, sports and community.

Cross grew up in Pierce County, attended Tacoma Schools and the College of Puget Sound (now UPS). He played sports, organized sports, officiated sports and created programs so people of all ages could play sports. Cross was still very active in sports related activities as he demonstrated by throwing the first pitch on the new fields.

Tom passed away in December of 2003. Throughout his life, Tom strove to ensure that all Pierce County residents should have numerous and wildly varied opportunities for recreation. In his last years he was able to see the Tom Cross Endowment Fund grow and was pleased to know that this endowment will benefit future generations.

Ballfield Construction
Constructed with state-of-the-art softball equipment in mind, fence distances are set symmetrically at 310? to accommodate the 'best of the best' slowpitch players as well as boy's baseball and girl's fastpitch games. The Musco lighting system was selected to minimize neighborhood intrusion and a complex irrigation system and extensive underground drainage system will enhance the maintenance of the fields as well as reduce the impact of surrounding areas. Covered dugouts have been installed and the infields contain a mixture of turface and sandy loam soil designed to recover quickly from inclement conditions.

The fence distances of the fields are set symmetrically at 310? to accommodate the 'best of the best' slowpitch players as well as boy's baseball and girl's fastpitch games. The Musco lighting system was selected to minimize neighborhood intrusion and a complex irrigation system and extensive underground drainage system will enhance the maintenance of the fields as well as reduce the impact of surrounding areas.

Covered dugouts have been installed and the infields contain a mixture of turface and sandy loam soil designed to recover quickly from inclement conditions. The total cost of the ballfield project was $1,154,893 with key grants received from the Youth for Athletic Facilities Fund (Inter-Agency Committee for Outdoor Recreation), the Ben B. Cheney Foundation, the Gottfried and Mary Fuchs Foundation, the Tacoma Athletic Commission, and the Tacoma Rainiers Community Fund. Additional funds were also provided by Pierce County.

The popularity of Sprinker is evident in the fact that in 2001 over 125,000 participants and spectators used the Sprinker ballfield complex for a variety of sports endeavors. The addition of two new fields will enhance the overall program and afford more players - young and old - to enjoy one of the most comprehensive recreational facilities in the Pacific Northwest.