CROWN POINT — The city broke ground Wednesday on a project that will provide a year-round recreation and event space for families to gather and take part in something Mayor David Uran said will make the city unique from most communities. 

Uran and city officials put shovels to the ground for Bulldog Park, a 2½-acre site in downtown Crown Point along West Street next to Wheeler Middle School. 

The $10 million to $11 million project will have numerous amenities including a two-story, 1,600-square-foot multifunction event center, an Olympic-sized ice rink, splash pads and an amphitheater/bandshell that can accommodate 1,500 people for concerts and theater performances.

"This will have something for everybody," Uran said. "Whether you live here, work here or just come here and play. This will be an attraction in our community to bring tax and tourism dollars in." 

Plans for the project began several years ago but picked up steam in 2017 when the city acquired the property from the Crown Point Community School Corp.

The Dean and Barbara White Foundation provided more than $4 million, with the rest coming from tax increment financing dollars. No residential tax dollars were necessary.  

"This project will preserve, protect and enhance property values in the city going forward," Uran said. 

The ice rink, which will operate in a controlled atmosphere, is expected to be ready by December and allow for all-ages ice skating and hockey, Uran said.

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The Crown Point Bulldog Hockey Club now will have a home rink. 

"It's exciting to have a rink in our hometown here and hopefully we'll be able to utilize it the best that we can," said club President Craig Wise, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

"We look forward to playing at least the local teams around here and look forward to kicking this off as soon as it opens up. We plan to utilize it as much as we can."

The new park means the city no longer will have to close downtown streets to accommodate festival crowds. Beginning this year, festivals will be shifted to Bulldog Park, and it also will be home to Thursday night car cruises.

Uran said the city has faced challenges with more events taking place downtown, which leads to loss of parking.

"This footprint will allow all those activities you normally see on the downtown square to take place here, and we can add to them," he said.  

The event center also replaces the civic center at the old civil defense building downtown. Senior activities currently taking place there will move to Bulldog Park. 

Andrew Kyres, who sits on the City Council and Redevelopment Commission, said he is excited for this project to happen and to become a reality.

"This will enhance the quality of life for our residents and our visitors, and it allows Crown Point to be a place where people want to work, play, live and recreate," he said.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.