JC Sports Complex named after Lowe   

By Jeff Birchfield
star staff
jbirchfield@starhq.com

  JOHNSON CITY -- The local sports community remembered one of its most influential figures Tuesday evening with the naming of the Lonnie Lowe Recreation and Sports Complex in Johnson City.
   The complex consists of the Legion Street Recreation Center, the Legion Street Pool, Little League Baseball Facilities, Cardinal Park (home of the Johnson City Cardinals baseball team) and Memorial Stadium (Science Hill's football stadium).
   Lowe, who passed away in 2001, was a Johnson City employee for 31 years, and for 21 years was the Director of Parks and Recreation. Among the major accomplishments during his tenure was the land and development of Winged Deer Park, Willow Springs Park and Carver Park.
   Daughter Kelly Lowe Conley shared with the crowd at the Cardinal Park dedication ceremony a favorite piece of advice from her father. "He used to say, 'The difference between good and great is extra effort,'" remembered Conley.
   Current J.C. Parks and Rec director Thomas Alexander fondly recalled their friendship and mentioned Lowe's commitment to the surrounding area.
   "He loved this community, was dedicated to this community and gave his heart to this community," said Alexander. "Parks and Rec without Lonnie Lowe would lack foundation, would lack solidarity."
   While the accomplishments of Lowe were influential in the decision to rename the sports facility, his friends most remembered his positive attitude toward children. Four years, Lowe served as director of the Johnson City Boys and Girls Club and helped bring the Little League Opening Day to Cardinal Park.
   "He was always interested in kids," recalled Phil Street. "His legacy is how sports have grown in Johnson City. He was driven by the desire to make things better. God Bless Lonnie Lowe."
   In his younger years, Lowe was an accomplished athlete, playing on the 1962 Science Hill state championship baseball team, counting among teammates close friend Steve Spurrier. He later pitched for Milligan College, throwing a one-hitter during one contest and scored a hole-in-one in a golf tournament while playing alongside Spurrier and former Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese.
   Later years one of the proudest accomplishments for the former teacher and coach was seeing Science Hill win the 1998 state baseball title, filled with a roster of players from the Johnson City youth league programs.
   Pete Paduch, the current mayor of Johnson City, recalled Lowe's kindness to children and fondly remembered how Lowe would bypass city red tape to get things accomplished. As an example, was helping the city transform the old tennis center at Buffalo Valley Golf Course into an indoor soccer facility.
   "It's an honor to be mayor while this is taking place," said Paduch. "The Parks and Rec system is great in Johnson City, much of it the result of Lonnie's vision. He was a risk taker, who took advantage of opportunities for the city. He always had an idea of what he wanted to do."
   Paduch offered other insight why Lowe was such an effective leader of the department.
   "His biggest strength was his people skills," remembered Paduch. "He had those skills that you can't train people to have. He instinctly liked people, he liked the kids and he carried that through his whole career at the city."