VALPARAISO | The city's Parks Department is a victim of the success of the downtown Central Park Plaza.
Parks Director John Seibert told Valparaiso's Park Board on Tuesday that average attendance at park events has grown from 500 or 600 when it opened to more than 1,000.
Attendance at the movies in the park is closer to 1,500, and Seibert said the city is looking into the need for an improved sound system and a larger movie screen.
The larger crowds mean people are sitting all the way to the far end of the park, and the screen and sound system are inadequate. The city is looking for a way to pay for upgrading both. In the meantime, the city's Board of Zoning Appeals gave the parks department permission to put up an electronic sign near the entrance to advertise events.
"Now we have to determine the funding for it," Seibert said. "Over the next couple of weeks we will be working with the city on where it will come from, and we hope to have it up by the end of the summer."
Seibert also is in charge of coordinating the expansion of the park on the property to the west of the amphitheater. Working with the city administration, a request for proposals from engineering firms to design the facilities for the expansion is expected to go out in about the next 30 days.
As was the case with the existing park, funds for the design are expected to come from donations and from the city either through the Board of Public Works and Safety or the Redevelopment Commission and not from the parks department. Board President Christa Emerson Borlick asked that a board member be included in the park's planning discussions.
Seibert said a renewal of the amphitheater naming rights agreement with Porter Health Systems is expected to be ready at the next board meeting. The one-year agreement approved last August is providing funds for the maintenance of the park, and Seibert said the hospital has indicated an interest in continuing it.
"We've been working hard on it, and, with the response of the community to the amphitheater, it has been mutually beneficial."