Re-creating recreation in Munster

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z Re-creating recreation in MunsterBy LuAnn Franklin nwitimes.com
April 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The vision for a redeveloped Munster Community Park comes into clearer focus with each construction season. This multi-year project will transform Community Park into one of the premier recreation complexes in Northwest Indiana, says Tom DeGiulio, Munster town manager and head of the Munster Parks & Recreation Department.

According to the master site plan, there will be 10 new lighted fields for all age groups; four new restrooms; a new storage garage; and new tennis and basketball courts. Improved parking areas and a new entrance road and traffic signal will make getting in and out of the park, Munster Public Library, the Weis Center and Boy Scouts office easier, DeGiulio says.

Funded through monies from park bonds and the tax increment financing district, the second phase of redevelopment is continuing at a rapid pace to allow Little League teams to begin their regular season April 15. TIF money can be used for the Community Park renovations because Munster’s oldest and largest park is located along Calumet Avenue, which is in the town’s TIF district.

In March, the Munster Redevelopment Commission, which consists of the five Town Council members and a School Board member, unanimously approved funding two projects for the second phase of park redevelopment. The Redevelopment Commission controls the tax increment financing money being used to do major renovations at Community Park. The appointed Park Board oversees the operations and activities of the Munster Parks and Recreation Department.

Olthoff Inc., of Lynwood, was given the green light for one of those projects – to install underground utilities. The company agreed to hold its 2-year-old prices, Town Engineer James Mandon says.

This part of the project needs to be finished before the hardscape, including asphalt paths and concrete sidewalks north of the ball fields, can be installed.

Rieth-Riley of Gary was also awarded the bid to install the hardscape, in this phase of construction. The construction of the asphalt paths will have to wait until the asphalt plants open in April, Mandon says.

“We began the scheduling process so everything is ready for this season,” says Mandon.

The 2012 Little League season had to be shortened because of park construction, and the All-Star games were scheduled out of town.

Phase three of the Community Park redevelopment is progressing after recent discussions between the Park Board and the Redevelopment Commission.

A joint meeting of the two groups included reviews of what has already been accomplished at the town’s oldest and largest park in the first two phases and how the newest facilities in the third phase fit into the overall plan.

During that meeting Assistant Town Manager Clay Johnson presented a graphic that depicts the positioning and more than $4.5 million estimated costs of those facilities in this third phase.

The new features coming to Community Park in the next construction season include:

• Four new Little League ball fields “A” through “D” with a projected total cost of $1,755,000

• Two new Babe Ruth ball fields, each costing $490,000 or $980,000 total

• Five buildings: new press box with restroom, $350,000; addition of concession stand to existing Little League press box. $75,000; new Little League press box with restroom, $350,000; new Babe Ruth press box with restroom, $350,000 and a new maintenance building, $160,000

• A new intersection north of the Lake County Public Library that will be the new entrance to Community Park, $250,000

• A roadway going north and south from the new intersection/entrance, $320,00

• Hardscape and general landscaping, $155,000.

• Site lighting, cost to be determined.

The town is acting as its own general contractor with Town Engineer James Mandon heading the project. A supervisor from Robinson Engineering of Merrillville has also been onsite four hours a day during the second phase of redevelopment.

Johnson recommended continuing to use The Linden Group of Munster as the architectural design consultant and Robinson as the engineering consultant for phase three.

“The town has budgeted $2.5 million in tax increment financing for Community Park,” Johnson said at the joint Park Board/Redevelopment Commission meeting. “What that amount covers depends on the amount of areas to be redeveloped and the quality of the product.”

At their joint meeting, members of the Munster Redevelopment Commission and the Munster Park Board unanimously approved the four Little League ball fields and associated building to be built in the third phase of Community Park improvements. The work is expected to begin this year after the league’s season is completed. The project will soon be put out for bid.

In approving the plans’ estimated cost of about $4.8 million, the Redevelopment Commission voted to add a clause to every contract to ensure the work is finished on time.

“When the contractors bid, they have to understand there is a time frame and they have to make that deadline,” said Joseph Simonetto, Redevelopment Commission chairman.

Town Engineer James Mandon said inserting the "liquidated damages" clause likely will increase the cost of the project.

Simonetto said the project is being bid with enough lead time that the estimated costs can be re-evaluated.

Before the vote, Michael J. Matthys, senior associate with Orland Park-based Linden Group, presented architectural designs and answered questions about the plan. Little League officials provided suggestions before the designs were put to a vote.

Among the changes Little League official Roland Raffin asked for was the addition of a fourth batting cage. The cages will be constructed near Little League fields C and D and a new parking lot. They will be shared by Babe Ruth, girls’ softball and Little League teams this summer.

Three more batting cages will be built during 2014 for Babe Ruth teams near their new ball fields on the southeast portion of the ball field area in back of Munster High School.

The 2013-14 project also will include relocating Little League fields A and C, building a new field D and upgrading field B. All will include dugouts, field lighting, fencing, ball field surface and irrigation. Three of the fields will be bid out as one package, while the fourth will have a separate bidding process.

A new Little League press box and restroom will be built between the B and D fields as a separate bid package at that time. These will be funded through money from the tax increment financing district and existing park bonds, according to DeGiulio.

A storage building also will be bid separately using park bond funds this construction season. Parking lots to be used by Munster High School and park visitors near the ball field will cost $100,000 and will be paid for out of gaming revenue. The project also includes renovation of the concession stand.

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