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Stock: Hammond City Hall

HAMMOND — The city's Park Board may be given the authority to permit beer to be served at Riverside Park and other parks under a new policy that will be considered by the City Council on Monday.

Councilman Dave Woerpel, D-5, has proposed the resolution in which the decision that now rests with the City Council be made by the Park Board.

Woerpel, a former Park Board member, said the request for a beer license was something the Hammond Lakers amateur baseball team had talked to them about earlier.

In May, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. announced a deal had been struck between the then-Michigan City Lakers and the Hammond Park Department for lease of Hammond's south baseball field, located in Riverside Park, for use in the 2016 baseball season.

The city's ordinance currently prohibits sale of the alcohol at the park on a regular basis "except that the Common Council may approve one-day picnics or celebrations by any civic, charitable, not-for-profit or labor organization which has obtained all other proper permits."

Anthony Spangler, the team's general manager, said serving beer wasn't about making money. Rather, he indicated, it was more to try to create a type of big league type atmosphere a draw more people to the games.

The team drew a couple of hundred people to games when they were in Michigan City, he said, but estimated they probably drew only about 50 a game when they moved to Hammond last year. He said their goal this year is to try to draw 300 people per game a year.

Concerns were raised at the last council meeting by Councilman Robert Markovich, D-at large, about the council giving up its authority in regard to who would be able to serve beer at the parks.

When it came to taking away authority from the council, Markovich said "I'm not too crazy about that." 

There was also some concern raised about how neighbors of the park would feel about the event. Spangler did not think there would be an issue, however, and said there would a police officer stationed at the games and that those drinking beer would be within a cordoned off area.

Controversy over supplier

Woerpel's request came after a radio interview earlier this month in which officials with the Hammond Lakers baseball team spoke about serving beer at the park.

During that show, a caller questioned whether the team had gone out for bid for a supplier for the beer. Spangler said they were "kind of told" to reach out to Flat Rock Tap first, which he noted was right down the street from Riverside Park.

The bar is owned by Lake County Commission President Michael Repay, D-Hammond. The caller implied the team got the field for free from one politician and then are using a catering license from a place owned by another politician.

But the owner of the Lakers said they did not get the use of the field for free, but paid the city $5,000 for 26 dates. He said they were given a few names of places they could look.

Spangler told The Times they looked at a few different places and he didn't even know who the owner of Flat Rock tap was previously.

McDermott said after the radio interview that he didn't care whether the team served beer at the games or not.

As far as Spangler's remarks on the radio about being "kind of told" to reach out to Flat Rock Tap, McDermott said "I have no idea what he's talking about, none."

He said he had nothing to do with recommending where they go to purchase the beer.

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Ed has been with The Times since January 2014. He previously covered government affairs for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers in Florida. Prior to Scripps, he was with the Chicago Regional Bureau of Copley News Service.