Several years ago Troy Johansen came home and told his wife, Michelle, and family, “We bought a ball park!”
The Grantsville resident, long-time softball coach and advocate had just won the bid to operate Deseret Peak Complex’s softball fields. He was now responsible for a ballpark complex with nine fields, several soccer fields and a concession stand.
With over 30 years of softball coaching experience, Troy was approached by Tooele County officials about operating the softball complex when the county had financial troubles and laid off most of Deseret Peak’s staff in 2013.
Troy’s involvement with softball started with coaching his sister’s team, continued as he coached his daughter’s team, and now his granddaughter’s team. His experience and love for softball and “making good young people” through the sport, made Troy a natural person of interest to keep the softball complex open.
As a coach and long-time director with the Grantsville Softball League, Troy was familiar with the park because he had helped run the league as well as some tournaments. He submitted a bid and is now in his seventh year running the Deseret Peak Softball Complex.
For years, Troy told the county that he believed the entire park could be funded with concession sales, and now it was his opportunity to test his idea.
Although still trying seven years later, Troy and Michelle have not quite achieved their goal of making the park self-sustaining, but they have built the park as a place to play a great tournament.
Troy and Michelle lease the park from the county. They pay for everything out of their concession funds, including lights, equipment and concession materials.
Tooele County pays the water bill.
Troy said, “Once in a while we actually make money on a tournament. … And I use the excess to buy a new mower or piece of equipment.”
As the manager of the Deseret Peak Softball Complex, Troy has increased the number of tournaments played each year to 23 softball tournaments and one baseball tournament.
The tournaments bring fans to Tooele County who spend money on hotels and food, according to Troy.
“Many of the businesses like to know when I have a tournament, so they can be prepared,” he said. “The manager at the McDonald’s in Lake Point used to get my schedule each year because they knew they would be slammed in the mornings when we held tournaments.”
Tournaments at Desert Peak range from college athletes to 8 and under teams. Every team brings in fans and fans spend money in the county, according to Troy.
“We figure that an 8U team brings around 12 players, and each player at a young age draws about seven support people — parents, siblings, coaches,” he said. “That’s 84 per team. Depending on how many teams we have, well, it can bring a lot of money into the county.”
Troy said his goal is to “get more people out here to spend money in Tooele County.”
But, to host tournaments, a facility needs to be in tip-top shape, and Troy has become one of the best-known field experts in the state.
“A lot of times it would be easier to say, ‘We’re rained out,’” Troy said. “But many people have told me that I can make fields playable before anyone can.”
Troy is generous with his acquired knowledge and willingly shares his secrets to make softball better across the state.
“I’ve had high school coaches call me and ask what to do about a field problem,” he said. “And I say, ‘Send me a picture of the field’ and then I tell them what to do to get their field ready.”
One of the state softball directors has even given Troy the moniker, “The Field Whisperer,” due to his amazing ability to get fields ready quickly and on time, especially after challenging circumstances.
The spring of 2019 was very trying for Troy. He spent more than his usual 60-70 hours a week at Deseret Peak as he battled endless rains.
On Troy’s birthday that spring, people driving past Deseret Peak could spot him on a giant pool toy in the shape of a unicorn floating out on the lake that filled the infield on one of the fields. Yet, just a few days later he was off the unicorn, watching ball on his perfectly groomed fields.
Running the park doesn’t only include time spent during games.
“There are a million things that need to be done when there are no games” Troy said. “There is always something to fix or dig up and there is always a lot of watering as well as cleaning and servicing the restrooms, working on the grass or the fields or just getting ready for concessions.”
When the Johansens took over the softball complex, Michelle became the concessions manager.
“That is her domain,” Troy said. “She runs that, and I try to stay out of it.”
Michelle, who would rather serve delicious food than be interviewed, said she “loves to do the food and make people happy.”
“Those who come to the ballpark are very generous,” Michelle said. “Tooele County residents know what we have here, and they are very generous to support the concessions stand.”
Michelle can’t pinpoint a crowd favorite from the concessions stand.
“It just depends on the crowd. Some days hamburgers are popular, and other days it’s hot dogs,” she said.
On a cold night a few weeks ago, the most popular item was hot chocolate. They sold over 160 cups, according to Michelle.
Recently, Michelle was called upon to share her food skills as a caterer for the film crew of the Netflix original “Pitching Love, Catching Faith” filmed at Deseret Peak in September.
“We have had film crews out before, and one YouTube video filmed at Deseret Peak that shows a softball pitcher striking out a baseball player has 1.2 million views,” Troy said.
Keeping the softball complex running is also a family affair for the Johansens.
For years their children and grandchildren have helped in the concession stand and with the fields while they played and coached teams.
“It’s fun to have my grandkids help,” Michelle said. “Not only do family members help out, but also friends and other community members. We get a lot of help from our family, our kids and grandkids. A number of our friends also help out as well. It is a shared effort.”
Troy and Michelle work hard to make the Deseret Peak Softball Complex the best softball complex in the area, and they don’t do it for the money or fame as they have yet to break even on their venture.
So why do they continue to give Tooele County citizens such a great deal?
“When I’m lying in a mud puddle, arm in the ground searching for a leak in a sprinkler, I have to remind myself why I am doing this and what this is all for,” Troy said. “It’s for the love of the game! It’s to watch five year olds progress to eight year olds in 8U ball. That is the excitement that drives all this.”