Rarely seen but always present and working behind the scenes is how some would describe Ken Katafias, Sylvania Recreation Corp. operations manager who will retire April 30.
“He is low-profile, but he is always there in the background,” said John Crandall, Sylvania Township trustee. Mr. Crandall was the first Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District board president in 1988 and serves on the board today.
Also known as SAJRD, the entity collects 1.27 mills annually to fund sport facilities and programs through Sylvania Recreation and Tam-O-Shanter, both nonprofits. Many of those programs and facilities Mr. Katafias has “cultivated” and run for 20 years.
When he started, the 75-year-old Centennial Terrace was just a stage.
“You could barely get some vision without elbowing each other. Now it brings in national acts,” said Dave Spiess, SAJRD and Sylvania Recreation board member.
Those acts have included Alice Cooper, Chicago, and the Doobie Brothers, he said.
Mr. Katafias, 61, said the renovation of Centennial Terrace and Quarry, a hot spot for entertainment and swimming, is one of his proudest accomplishments, along with Pacesetter Park.
The multipark complex doubled in size to about 138 acres under his leadership, Mr. Spiess said.
The park has 25 soccer fields, eight baseball-softball diamonds, and a skate park. It draws thousands of people from across the Midwest for soccer tournaments.
Since Mr. Katafias, who oversaw Sylvania Veteran’s Memorial Park as well, announced his retirement in February, he has been grooming Mike McMahon, 41, recreation services manager, to take over in May.
Mr. McMahon has overseen the operations of the program department, which manages youth and adult sports, including cheerleading, football, lacrosse, and wrestling. It also hosts sport camps and clinics throughout the year.
Sylvania Recreation collects money from participants for its sport programs. Mr. Katafias said its budget is 70 percent privately funded and 30 percent publicly.
Mr. McMahon said he is excited to “carry on what Ken and great volunteers have started over the years.”
He said he intends to respond to Sylvania’s recreation and entertainment needs.
“Pacesetter is one of the best outdoor facilities in the Midwest; we are always evaluating and making improvements as necessary,” he said.
Mr. McMahon of Sylvania Township was hired in 2006 as program director and became services manager in 2010.
Mr. Katafias of Toledo said he still plans to serve Sylvania Recreation as a consultant.
“It was [a] privilege and honor to serve the Sylvania community,” he said.
It is unique, he said, “because the residents have dedicated funding for facilities and programs,” something usually the first thing to get cut from government budgets when times get tough.