Cullman Parks and Recreation has won its fair share of awards over the years, but officials say the latest accolade might be the biggest yet.

Heritage Park and the Field of Miracles have been named the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSA) Complex of the Year for 2013, making it the only site in the nation to receive the designation this year. The contest isn’t split into divisions, so the local department was up against much larger cities in areas as far-flung as California and Texas.

Cullman parks marketing director Waid Harbison said the designation is arguably one of the most prestigious ever received for the local department.

“It’s a huge deal, probably the biggest honor we’ve ever been given as a parks and recreation department,” he said. “We work with USSA on baseball and softball, and the fact that we’ve been working with USSA for about 10 years, and that link has helped us land state and national tournaments. It really recognizes the whole community, from the hotels and restaurants that are all great to work with us. The thing we always hear is that this is a family-friendly community, and that’s a credit to everyone here.”

Harbison said he expects the award to open up some new opportunities for Cullman, noting the department recently booked its most high-profile tournament ever — the Conference USA softball championship, which should bring in universities and visitors from across the country.

“That’s the biggest we’ve ever had, and we think it’ll bring in a lot of people and be a great event,” he said.

The fields hosted approximately 45 weekend tournaments over the past year, bringing in more than $40 million in estimated economic impact.

“We especially want to thank our staff, because they do a phenomenal job,” Harbison said. “They always tell us, that even when it rains, our people are out there working hard and want the place to look good.”

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.

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