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HAMMOND | Dowling Park should be fully open for residents to use by the middle or end of October as workers put the finishing touches on the facility.

The baseball, softball and soccer fields that are being used by Purdue University Calumet athletic teams as part of an agreement with the city have all been completed, according to Hammond Assistant City Engineer Mark Gordish.

Mayor Thomas J. McDermott Jr. said the university is paying the city $175,000 under a one-year lease agreement while a long-term lease agreement is worked out. Purdue University Calumet Chancellor Thomas L. Keon said soccer team is currently using the soccer field. The baseball and softball fields were used by the school's teams earlier this year.

Gordish said work on the park located east of Kennedy Avenue, just north of Interstate 80/94, was initially to be substantially complete by the end of August, but rain caused that date to be pushed back a month. Work still needs to be completed on the 1.8-mile walking trail, bleachers, and in a few other areas.

Although the park isn't expected to be officially open to the public for another month or so, some residents are already using the walking trail that winds around the perimeter of the park. 

City Engineer Stan Dostanti said in the past a heavy rain would make the park unusable. "We made sure it would drain well and can be used," said Dostanti who toured last week with Gordish and Parks and Recreation Administrator Donna Muta.

Last year, Keon spoke about the university possibly buying the fields and the state Budget Committee in August authorized Purdue trustees to spend $3.5 million to purchase the 15 acres containing the fields, tennis courts and associated facilities. The university was going to borrow the money for the purchase.

Keon said last week, however, that the university officials "decided that it would be in the best interest of the city if we leased rather than purchased." 

McDermott said various options have been discussed with university officials. He said he wants to make sure the park is being utilized year round.

"I want the place to be busy and available to the public when Purdue University Calumet isn't using it," he said Thursday.

The campuses at Purdue University Calumet campus are expected to combine with Purdue North Central in July 2016.

Work on the Dowling Park athletic complex began in 2013 and last November, the Hammond City Council approved a $7.3 million bond issue that was to be used primarily for constructing fields at the park for baseball, softball, and soccer as well as a tennis facility.

The first phase of the project included soccer, softball and baseball fields, dugouts, and parking areas. The second phase included the tennis courts, walking path, bleachers, restroom, concession stands, a training room, and service facilities along with the completion of parking areas.

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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.