For over 45 years, Mayor Stan Hogeland has dedicated his life to public service. From his quiet start in parks maintenance at 18 years of age to the accomplished, three-term mayor of his hometown, he has worked tirelessly to improve life in Gardendale. One of his proudest achievements is opening up a $32 million state-of-the-art sports complex because to Hogeland, the best legacy and impact in his community is centered around parks, sports, and kids.
“In 1972, when I was about 12 years old, I lived in an unincorporated area called Fieldstown,: Hogeland said. The city had just finished a new civic center. I went into this building, and they had pool tables, foosball tables, ping-pong and then I walked into what looked like heaven to me: an air-conditioned basketball court. I came every day and met with the parks director. I kept score for basketball games, developed as a basketball referee, and worked maintenance in the summers. After I graduated, a job came open with the city for a park foreman. I left the job I had taken at the bank and never looked back.”
Image courtesy of Bill Noble Park
Following his retirement as the Gardendale parks and recreation director in 2012, Hogeland was elected to the Gardendale City Council where he served as president until he was appointed mayor in 2015. He ran unopposed in 2016, 2020, and is currently serving his third term.
“After serving as the director of parks for 10 years, I felt the call to go into politics, but I resisted it for a while. When I told my wife I was thinking about retiring and running for office, she told me I must have lost my mind. But, being the parks and recreation director, I knew everyone. Everyone’s kids were in my programs. We built splashpads, playgrounds, and amphitheaters. I held a close working relationship with the mayors I served under.
Something I’ve always preached was that it was never all about recreation; it is about a sense of community. In Gardendale, we truly do have a sense of community and it’s awesome. We try to warn people how important it is to hang on to that. Once you lose it, you can’t get it back. It takes work.”
“The vision was twofold for us. First, I wanted to build a park that was for our kids and our community. The kids here in Gardendale were playing on the same fields that I played on when I was a little boy, which was quite some time ago. We felt like our kids deserved a new place to play. The community is our priority, but on the weekends, we hope to develop it into an economic development engine. This park will help existing businesses increase sales and attract new businesses to our community.”
The new Bill Noble Park was a redevelopment project on the site of the former G. William Noble Athletic Complex. Both parks get their namesake from Mayor Bill Noble who served as Gardendale’s mayor from 1972-1996. The park is expected to produce more than $45 million in estimated economic impact in the first five years of operation.
“Two years ago, the city invested in a recreation master plan. This project was the first step in that plan and we have a few things in mind to add other city assets like our civic center – we plan to add an aquatics section with an indoor pool and waterslide.
We got a $40 million bond to finance the project. It was welcomed by city council and many in the community. Everyone bought in and believed in the project. It’s hard to argue about investing in kids and recreation. Don’t get me wrong, I have my fair share of critics. It helped that we didn’t have to create a new tax or anything like that. We’re confident in our ability to pay it back with the help of the additional revenue the park brings. Our tax base will grow.”
“It is more popular than I ever dreamed that it was possible, and it’s created challenges. The biggest thing is… we knew it would attract baseball and softball teams, and we were confident with our product. We felt like we had built a facility that was not going to be second to very many at all. But our teenagers have fallen in love with the park. Literally, a couple hundred every evening come to play beach volleyball. They also fell in love with the game of pickleball and the basketball court. We were not expecting it. It’s a park that was designed for the entire family unit. From the playground to the fields to tennis, pickleball, beach volleyball, basketball to the event center. It has a lot of features that were designed for the entire family. We did not anticipate the outpouring of teenagers.”
“First of all, you have to be able to afford it. I have a city clerk and finance director I lean on heavily. I would not take this to council until she gave me a heads up financially. I’ve focused on building a great team and surrounding myself with people who work hard, can depend on each other and are smarter than me.
In my mind, we got one chance to do this right. It was critical. We also made the decision to outsource the operations of the park to a professional management group.
We are focused on maximizing usage while at the same time taking care of the local residents. That’s truly why we built it. We hope for it to do great things. With the new park, we’ll be able to do new things, plan new activities. Gardendale is a small town, but we’re also the largest city in Jefferson County which means a lot of people in smaller cities come to us for their quality of life. For their kids and ours – I want them to be able to play.
I took a chance, and it wasn’t easy. I’m not typically a risk taker, I’m pretty conservative. I felt like that was the right thing to do. We made a commitment to help kids through education and recreation. Every time I go in there, someone puts their arm around me and says they’re so thankful for the new park. That’s why I do what I do; to try to make Gardendale a better place to raise your family. There’s not a community in the country that would not be proud to have this park. You just have to be prepared to deal with the challenges, and that’s about trying to accommodate everyone that’s trying to use it because it’s so stinkin’ nice.”