Whether you’re talking dramatic weight-loss transformations, extreme makeovers, celebrity kids all grown up – or anything that represents significant, visible, measurable change – “then and now” stories produce a certain degree of fascination.

Turns out, same goes for athletic venues.

Take the Fox Valley Park District’s Stuart Sports Complex, where one piece of equipment – specifically, the MAQA GNSS Guided Line Marking System – has revolutionized the daily schedule for field-maintenance staff.

Then: The painting of one soccer field required three staff members and an hour’s worth of work.

Now: One person and 15 minutes.

A product of Fleet Line Markers LTD, the MAQA pairs technology and practicality to deliver savings in both labor and time.

In early May, the FVPD traded in its aging laser painter and applied credit towards the new, considerably more efficient MAQA. The Global Navigation Satellite System-guided machine (think GPS) delivered eye-popping results – literally overnight.

In simpler terms, the FVPD uses the GPS-like feature to configure field dimensions of all shapes and sizes. Once the parameters are in place, a staff member works in a clockwise rotation, easily pushing the MAQA to produce a given field’s painted boundaries, before adding the interior lines (center circle, penalty box, etc.). The MAQA’s “brain” is programmed to stop the paint application should an operator veer as little as a quarter-inch off course or reach a boundary’s edge (see embedded video).

That’s quite the evolution from “three staff members with string lines and tape measures putting paint marks where everything is supposed to be in terms of boundaries, then moving to midfield and goal boxes and everything else … quite frankly, lines could get wobbly,” said Aaron Reinhart, the FVPD’s superintendent of golf and sports turf. “Athletics standards have grown along with the expectations of tournament directors, parents and athletes at our tournament destination. And we’re doing our best to deliver a premium experience.”

It’s important to note that the MAQA, despite its robotic characteristics, has not eliminated – or even trimmed – seasonal staff or positions the FVPD so heavily relies on throughout the year.

The time-saving machine has freed up additional staff and enables Reinhart and his team the ability to allocate resources elsewhere, both at Stuart and at other outdoor athletic facilities throughout the District.

“This has nothing to do with shrinking our crew,” Reinhart said. “This is all about saving time.

“The main thing for me, and I think I can speak for everyone districtwide, is aesthetics. This new system allows us to focus on the assets we already have and do a better job of upkeeping those. Garbage, litter, graffiti … anything that just gets missed because you’re in such a hurry to get everything done from a playing-field perspective before teams arrive.”

As for the MAQA? Reinhart plans to keep it at the Stuart complex “99% of the time.”

The FVPD’s centerpiece outdoor athletic facility, Stuart features 31 fields used for soccer, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee and hurling, and eight baseball/softball diamonds. For perspective, on its 160 acres of playing surfaces, Stuart in 2018 hosted 5,426 games from April 1 to Oct. 31. That’s an average of 775 games per month … and a lot of painting.

“This is one of those cost- and time-saving deals that results in a better end product,” Reinhart said. “You don’t see that too often.”

The Fox Valley Park District is currently seeking applicants to join the outdoor athletics maintenance staff. Several seasonal positions are available. If interested, please visit https://www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org/about-us/employment/ to fill out an online application or stop in to the Cole Center, 101 W. Illinois, Aurora.