VALPARAISO | If the ghost of William E. Urschel, founder of Urschel Laboratories, still lives in the house he built at Indiana Avenue and Napoleon Street, he will soon be able to look out the front windows at the new pavilion/skating rink to bear his name in Central Park Plaza.
The city announced Tuesday the Urschel family has agreed to donate $3 million for the construction of the pavilion on the northwest corner of Lafayette Street and Indiana across from the Porter Health Amphitheater. Construction is expected to start next October with the goal of opening the pavilion in the summer of 2015.
Parks Director John Seibert said the pavilion "will be the centerpiece for ice skating in cold weather months and special events in the mild weather months. It can be a stand-alone venue or serve as a major complement to the Porter Health Amphitheater."
CEO Rick Urschel, said, "We don't like to put our name out in the city, but we felt this was a good way to pay our respects for what he did for the community. And the location across the street from the house he built was just too cool."
Seibert said the donation is the largest the city has ever received and is flexible. The family has stated the money can be used both for construction and for the ongoing maintenance of the facility for 10 years. The pavilion is expected to cost about $3 million and be the focal point of the $8 million expansion of the park, which opened two years ago.
Mayor Jon Costas said, "It's great to have a vision, but you have to have the tenacity to make that vision a reality and that takes teamwork. We've seen the downtown become a defining part of the city. Once we are done with the park, it will be an extraordinary place to serve the citizens for generations to come."
The expansion of the park will also include a family center on the west side of the pavilion that will house the mechanical equipment for the rink and storage space as well as restrooms and a public area for warming and eating. Large windows will allow people in the family center to look at activities in the pavilion.
"We envisioned it as a place for people," Architect Vic Ritter, of Design Organization, which created the concept, said. "We wanted to make it look like it had always been there."
Some aspects of the final design still are being worked out, including a water feature and an outdoor fireplace. About half the cost of the expansion project will be funded by the city's Redevelopment Commission with money from the sale of the former North Coast Distributing building.
"We have a little more fundraising to do, but a gift of this magnitude made this possible," Costas said. "We will build it to make (William Urschel) proud."
Just in case he is still watching from across the street.