Ray Ecklund Complex's namesake is 'very, very grateful' for the honor

Mike Christopherson
Ray Ecklund speaks at the dedication of Ray Ecklund Complex at Monday's Crookston Park Board meeting. Standing on the left is his wife, Pam.

There are a trio of new and/or relocated-to-a-more-prominent location signs at what for decades was known as Highland Complex in Crookston, and they all feature the recreational amenity’s new namesake, “Ray Ecklund Complex.”

At this week’s Crookston Park Board meeting that doubled as a dedication event in honor of the City of Crookston’s first-ever Parks and Recreation director, and, later, city administrator, an obviously moved Ecklund said it’s “So hard to believe, to drive by and see your name on a sign.”

Ecklund came to Crookston in 1969 as the city’s first parks and rec director. The City’s current Parks & Recreation director, Scott Riopelle, credited Ecklund with the “innovative idea” of a complex that in the early-1970s consolidated all of Crookston’s softball fields into a central location. Since then, several other amenities have been added, such as the Lions Picnic Shelter, a splash park, horseshoes and more.

“Before that, this was just 40 acres with a baseball field by the tennis courts and a football field (for the Cathedral school),” Riopelle said. “Without Ray going forth with this way back then, we wouldn’t have this.”

Ecklund, joined by family and several friends, shared credit with his colleagues and staff at the time. “I was given two directives, to start and Parks and Recreation Department, and, second, to get a grant to start this facility,” he recalled. “Fortunately, my staff and I got it all done and this is the result. I’m very, very grateful.”

Mayor Dale Stainbrook thanked Ecklund for coming up with the idea to centralize Crookston’s softball fields. “They used to be spread out all over in the community; it’s nice to have them all in the same place,” he said.

Ecklund said he still couldn’t believe he was in Crookston talking about the complex renamed for him around 50 years after he came here.

“I was going to stay here four, five years and then go back to the Twin Cities, but here I am,” he said, taking a moment to acknowledge his friends and families with him at the dedication. “All of these friends…thank you.”