VALPARAISO | From church services and Shakespeare to Lazer Ball, the upcoming season at Central Park Plaza promises to be busy and varied.
This is the second full season for the park but the first for the expanded section on the west side of Lafayette Street on Indiana Avenue. Parks Director John Seibert said 114 events have been scheduled so far with a few dates still open for those interested in renting it.
The activities didn't start until May in 2012, but the Valparaiso University Phi Mu Alpha will kick off the park's season April 27 with a memorial concert fundraiser in honor of Christopher Patterson, a former fraternity member who was killed in Afghanistan.
"We usually are looking to start in May, but the people wanted to book it now," Recreation Superintendent Dan McGuire said. "A mix of different bands will play, and it's a fundraiser to set up a scholarship in Patterson's honor. They will sell tickets and collect donations."
The first programmed activity on the new section of the park will be Lazer Ball on Saturdays in April and May from 1 to 5 p.m. McGuire said it's a laser tag game in which a number of balls are set up for participants to hide behind.
"We are working with a company that will be bringing it out. We hope to attract the teen crowd," he said. "People can buy a pass to play a couple of games, and they play with 10 or 12 on a team."
The Valparaiso Police Department will hold its second annual K-9 fundraiser May 11 to get money to replace a dog that recently retired. The event will include a 5K run and a one-mile dog walk for participants to bring their pets. McGuire said about 200 people attended the first fundraiser a year ago. Vendors will offer food and other items to help raise funds, and a booth will have information on pets.
The park will host its first church service June 16. The Calvary Church is renting the park for the Father's Day Sunday service, which will be followed by a concert and other activities. McGuire said other churches have expressed interest in a similar arrangement.
Other events planned for coming months include a return of Chicago Street Theatre's "Shakespeare in the Park" with presentations of the bard's "Comedy of Errors" July 12 and 13; the Visiting Nurses Association 30th anniversary celebration of its hospice; the Boy Scouts' "Scout-A-Rama" on Aug. 31, and the American Cancer Society will move from Fairgrounds Park to Central Park for its annual Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 20.
Several Fit City events will be held, including 10 Fit City Fridays organized by Porter Regional Hospital beginning June 7. McGuire said June and July are pretty well booked up, but open dates are available for the rest of the year and can be reserved by contacting the parks department.
"There are some dates the park will just be open to the public, and we want to be sure we respect that," he said. "That's why we push events to the evening, so the splash pad will be open during the day."
Plans for the development of the Central Park extension are expected to be announced later this month. The city will spend much of the rest of the year raising funds for that project so construction can begin no later than next spring. That should extend the park's busy seasons through winter.