White's $2 million pledge advances sports complex work

2013-03-23T19:03:00Z 2013-03-24T23:36:03Z White's $2 million pledge advances sports complex workSusan Erler susan.erler@nwi.com, (219) 662-5336 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Philanthropist Dean White's pledge this month of $2 million in matching funds helped clinch a third round of improvements for the city sports complex.

A total estimated $4 million will be spent to install four new playing fields for girls league softball at the southern end of the 95-acre complex, which fronts on North Street.

Included in the cost are new concession and restroom buildings, paved parking for up to 650 cars, improved lighting and the extension of Bulldog Boulevard to the location.

The new fields replace existing ones, and one of the four will outshine the others as the scene of tournament play with enhanced spectator seating, Mayor David Uran said.

The money pledged by White through his Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation matches $2 million of city redevelopment dollars already committed to the project.

Uran chose an annual state of the region address by Crown Point and Merrillville officials to announce White's contribution to the project, saying both communities and the region as a whole stand to gain by having the state-of-the-art sports complex nearby.

"It keeps economic engines moving," by attracting people to nearby stores, restaurants and hotels, as well as the complex itself, Uran said.

Construction of the four new softball fields and other amenities is set to start in mid-July, when league play ends for 2013.

"Once that season is done, construction crews will take that over," Uran said. Work is expected to be complete in time for the 2014 season.

Three new softball fields sized for adult play and two artificial turf playing fields for youth football, soccer and lacrosse were installed at the west and north ends of the complex in two earlier rounds of improvements.

New concession and restroom buildings and upgraded parking, lighting and road access to both locations were included in the total nearly $7.5 million cost of the earlier phases.

White, who lives in Crown Point, contributed a total $3.1 million in matching funds to help cover costs of the first two rounds of work. Other funding is from a combination of redevelopment dollars, the $1.1 million proceeds of the sale of city-owned land, and an earlier $1.5 million bond sale authorized by city officials.

The new adult-league softball fields are set to open in late April. The artificial turf playing fields opened in late 2011.

A potential fourth phase of work would a year-round, indoor sports venue. A private partnership is being sought for the indoor venue, Uran said.


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