CROWN POINT | Installation of underground water and natural gas lines last week capped work for the year on a second round of improvements to the city-owned sports complex.
The underground lines will serve a planned concession building which could be constructed over the winter, weather permitting, officials said. The building foundation already has been poured.
Three softball fields and other improvements were installed throughout the year as part of the $3.5 million second phase of work at the complex, 1300 E. North St.
Crews broke ground in May, and any remaining work is expected to resume in early spring to ready the fields for play by the start of softball season next year, officials said.
A possible third phase, not yet authorized, would improve the south end of the 95-acre complex.
The improvements all are part of a long-range plan to transform the site into a multisport complex potentially unrivaled in the state, according to city officials.
The new softball fields were some of the first in the area to be constructed with a built-in water irrigation and sprinkler system, intended to improve safety and playability of the grounds and perhaps give them an edge as contenders for outside tournament play.
Bleachers with capacity for 1,000 spectators are planned for each of the fields, with a stadium style entryway.
The fields partly encircle a city water tower on the grounds of the complex, serving as an icon for the playing fields.
Old tile beneath the water tower was excavated late this year to make room for decorative paving planned in its place.
Fencing and lighting have been installed, and protection from erosion added to the fields ahead of winter weather.
Two artificial turf football fields and other amenities including improvements to access roads were constructed in the $4 million first phase of work on the complex in 2011.
The initial phase of work was paid from a combination of sources, including $1.1 million from the proceeds of the sale of city-owned land and a $1.5 million bond sale authorized by city officials.
Local businessman and philanthropist Dean White donated a total $3.1 million in matching funds through his Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation to help cover costs of the first and second phases of sports complex work.
A funding package totaling $5 million to cover costs of the second phase and possible third phase of work was approved by city officials late this year. A loan from a bond sale for the $5 million will be repaid using revenue from the city's tax increment financing districts.