CROWN POINT — Friday night was just the beginning for Bulldog Park.
Mayor David Uran was surrounded by what he described as an “all-star team” as they showcased the $10 million facility.
As officials cut the ribbon for the much anticipated park, the site along West Street was already getting use. Laughter was prevalent as children played in the facility’s splash pad. Many relaxed in the Franciscan Health Pavilion as they sampled food from local restaurants and prepared to hear the live music from Bulldog Park’s amphitheater.
Uran said there is much more to come during the summer, as the park will host more than a dozen free concerts. The weekly farmer's market and car cruise events also will take place there.
Several other summertime festivals and activities will be hosted at the facility.
Uran said Bulldog Park was made possible by a more than $5 million contribution from the Dean and Barbara White Foundation and the reinvestment of commercial tax dollars.
“There is not one residential tax dollar here," he said.
Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, believes Bulldog Park will have many benefits for the city and Northwest Indiana.
“I can assure you that with this kind of investment we’re going to see more visitors, it’s going to improve your quality of life, it’s going to change the landscape of the businesses in the square and add to their value,” Batistatos said.
He described Bulldog Park as “one more feather in your cap” as he congratulated Uran and the team involved in establishing the facility.
“If we could clone all of these people and drop them throughout Northwest Indiana, we’d have an incredible product to sell,” Batistatos said.
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He wasn’t the only person commending city officials for what they accomplished with Bulldog Park.
Randy Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, recognized the city for using local union labor to build the park.
“We’re extremely lucky to have a mayor like David Uran, who understands the importance of paying a living wage and benefits and also hiring a local workforce to keep the money in the local economy,” Palmateer said.
It wasn’t just those directly involved in the project that were having a good time Friday night.
Crown Point resident Sherly Smith brought her grandchildren to Bulldog Park, and she watched as they ran through the splash pad and played in a bounce house.
“It’s really nice,” Smith said.
Smith said she intends to come back many more times with her grandchildren. Smith also plans to be at Bulldog Park after senior citizen activities move there from the Crown Point Civic Center on Monday.
Although much of the focus is on the summertime activities going on at Bulldog Park, the facility will provide year-round recreation and event space.
A NHL-sized ice rink opened at the park late last year.
“Over that two-week period with school being out for the Christmas break, over 10,000 skaters came here in two weeks,” Uran said, “What an incredible accomplishment.”