HAMMOND — Africa Tarver believes the new sports complex and community center being built at the site of the former Woodmar Mall will share some of the same characteristics of the former shopping center.
Tarver, recently named executive director for planning and development for the city, said the new Hammond Sportsplex and Community Center at 6630 Indianapolis Blvd. will promote economic development as well as serve as a gathering place for residents in the area.
Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr., who along with Tarver and others spoke at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the complex Friday, said "we wanted to do something that would drive this area like Woodmar Mall used to drive this area."
The 135,000-square-foot complex will feature six basketball courts, 12 volleyball courts, two regulation-size indoor soccer fields, and six batting cages. It will also contain an upper level track that can be used for running, walking, as well as to observe sporting events taking place on the lower level.
In addition, the development will contain a community room that can host city events, along with a concession area, general offices, and restrooms/changing rooms.
Madison Construction Co., of Orland Park, is the construction manager for the project, which has a maximum contract budget of $17,946,273. Chief of Staff Phil Taillon noted that figure includes several hundred thousand dollars for contingencies and speculated the actual price for the project might come in closer to about $17.5 million.
The city last year agreed to pay just over $2 million for the 16-acre site of the former mall, which is still home to Carson Pirie Scott, one of the stores McDermott believes will benefit from the families coming to the city for future sports tournaments at the complex.
American Structurepoint is the architect for the project, while IMEG Engineering of Rock Island, Illinois, performed mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering services.
Construction workers actually broke ground at the site in late July for some utility and other initial work, said Taillon, who anticipated the complex would open by Sept. 1, 2018.
"Next September, Ocotober we are going to be hosting volleyball, basketball, and soccer tournaments right here in the third District of Hammond," McDermott said Friday.
City officials are hoping large numbers of people drawn in through amateur sporting tournaments at the facility will prompt additional activity at existing businesses as well as lead to the development of new restaurants and hotels nearby.
McDermott pointed to Westfield, Indiana, where he said hotels and restaurants are "popping up everywhere" because of that community's investment in amateur sports facilities. He added that while officials want the area to be a tourism destination, they also want it to be something Hammond residents can use during the weekdays.
"And we think we struck the right balance," he said.
The city last year received approval of an $8.7 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the complex. Plans called for the city to pay that money back through future allocations of Community Development Block Grant money the city is expected to receive between now and 2035.
Officials have talked about using additional block grant money along with tax increment financing money to pay for the remainder of the project. Taillon has said tax increment financing money raised in the Hammond Central Allocation Area also can serve as an alternate funding source if the block grant money were to become unavailable.
Revenue generated by increases in taxable assessed valuations in these tax increment financing areas are put into a special fund that can only be used for specific purposes within the district.