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Hammond Sportsplex

An architect’s rendering shows an exterior image of what a new Hammond Sportsplex potentially might look like.

HAMMOND — A final decision hasn't been made on whether to build a Hammond recreation and wellness center, but there appears to be a healthy chance it will happen as officials already have selected a design firm for the proposed facility.

Madison Construction, of Orland Park, Ill., was selected by the Hammond Redevelopment Commission to do the design work on the proposed community recreation center. Phil Taillon, executive director of the city's planning and development department, cited several factors for the city selecting the firm, including its history with sports-related projects.

In addition, Taillon said the company did a good job in presenting a conceptual drawing of how they could reuse the former Wal-Mart building in the Woodmar Mall area for the facility. While the company is based in Orland Park, Taillon said it has a subsidiary company called Three Corners in downtown Hammond, and officials have an understanding and experience in the Hammond area.

The design team will not be given the green light to begin work on a design until the decision is made to move forward with the project, according to Taillon. He said there was no discussion yet on design costs.

The Redevelopment Dommission in November decided to spend $25,000 to have Johnson Consulting, of Chicago, consult the first phase of a feasibility study to determine the need for a recreation center. The money will come from tax increment financing money from the Hammond Central Allocation Area.

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The first phase of the study was expected to begin last week and take about six weeks to complete. If that phase determines there is a need for such a facility, the city will move forward with the second phase of the study, also costing $25,000, to determine the financial feasibility of creating such a complex. That phase is also expected to take several weeks.

Taillon said the city is hoping to break ground in the summer, although that depends on many factors. The city, for instance, has not yet determined whether it would use the Wal-Mart building for the facility.

Earlier city officials determined the acquisition of land and construction of a recreation center could potentially cost between $10 million and $15 million. The city could seek a loan of between $8 million and $9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The city could then pledge a portion of the community development block grant money it receives between 2016 and 2035 to repay the loan. Other community development block grant money, tax increment financing dollars and additional federal funds could be used to cover the rest of the cost of the project, according to city officials.

The facility could include sports courts for basketball, volleyball and soccer. In addition, the facility could include weights and other fitness equipment along with a jogging track, community room and a juice/healthy snack bar.

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