Central Park expansion plans expected in two months

2012-11-27T21:25:00Z 2012-11-27T21:47:04Z Central Park expansion plans expected in two monthsBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | With plans for the expansion of Central Park Plaza about two months from completion, parks officials are ready to start transforming Bicentennial Park.

Parks Director John Seibert told the Park Board on Tuesday a three dimensional model of the second phase of Central Park Plaza was constructed by the architectural firm Design Organization and is being shown to stakeholders and potential donors over the next couple of weeks.

The plans could be tweaked before being presented to the public for further input before the final concept is drawn up toward the end of January. The plan is to fund the project with grants, donations and sponsorships, as was done with the first phase. Construction will depend on the ability to generate the funds.

Seibert said the skating rink remains part of the project along with a possible outdoor fireplace and warming facility with heated restrooms. The expansion would occupy a portion of Lafayette Street adjacent to the amphitheater and extend almost to Napoleon Street on Indiana Avenue.

The city holds multiple events at the park each week from May through October, drawing an average of about 1,000 visitors per event. If the skating rink is built, Seibert said the park would have activities 365 days a year, possibly including the holidays. An estimate of the cost of the project won't be done until plans are closer to being finalized.

The Bicentennial Park project will start with a joint effort with the city's Utilities Board to improve drainage at the park. The work will involve redoing the west field, shortening it and moving the lighting, installing rain gardens around the exterior of the outfield fence and replacing the fences along the foul lines and the dugouts.

The parking lot will be slightly expanded and utilities installed to eventually  relocate the restrooms with a concession stand next to the field. A new field is planned between the west field and the existing east field in the second phase. The east field eventually will be redone and realigned so all three fields will be for youth sports.

More parking is planned and hard surface will be added to make the fields accessible to the handicapped. The only thing still to be decided is the fate of the park's tennis courts. Redoing the west field with the drainage work will cost $150,000, which is what replacing the courts would cost. An overall plan for the department's tennis courts could determine which will be kept and which eliminated.

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