HAMMOND — The city on Thursday announced a partnership with public and private schools for the use of city parks for athletics.
The agreement allows School City of Hammond, Hammond Academy of Science & Technology and Bishop Noll Institute to use the new soccer, baseball, softball and tennis facilities at Dowling Park and the south baseball fields at Riverside Park for home games and matches.
"We are grateful to Mayor (Thomas) McDermott and his team for providing this opportunity to the student athletes attending high schools in Hammond," Paul Mullaney, president of Bishop Noll Institute, said in a statement issued by the city Thursday morning.
"Interscholastic athletics and other extra-curricular activities are important to the total development of the whole student and the opportunity to compete on such top-level playing surfaces can only enhance our students' high school experience and contribute to their growth."
Purdue University Calumet previously partnered with the city for the use of Dowling Park Sport Complex through a lease agreement. City officials said even with the use of the fields by PUC athletes, they will often remain vacant.
"We built these first class athletic fields with Hammond kids in mind as well," McDermott said. "When Purdue University Northwest isn't using them, there is no reason for them to sit unoccupied."
The agreement allows the school to schedule a set number of games and matches at the facilities when not in use bu PUC.
The south baseball field at Riverside Park will allow "the children of Hammond to experience playing on this natural-grass, college level facility," McDermott said.
Riverside Park was previous used by the Indiana Chiefs Baseball Program. The group maintained the field but the facility was not public.
"There is no reason to keep Hammond baseball players off of one of the nicest fields in Northwest Indiana," McDermott said. "After all, it is a park facility and should be available for the use of the general public."
Dr. Sean Egan, principal of Hammond Academy of Science & Technology, said the schools coaches and athletes are "ecstatic about the possibility of our teams being able to play at such excellent sports facilities."
"We think it's a great idea to use this Hammond facility to showcase Hammond athletics," Egan said. "We feel honored that the city is including us in the conversation pertaining to the present and future of Dowling Park."
Dr. Walter Watkins, superintendent of the School City of Hammond, said the agreement will, "expose our students to a larger athletic experience and confirm that Hammond supports its youth in their endeavors."