Chesterton Tribune



Croquet group eyes long term land lease at Sunset Hill Farm

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Representatives of the Northwest Indiana Croquet Association (NICA) approached the Porter County Park Board at its meeting last night to propose building a four-court championship class croquet complex at Sunset Hill Farm Park.

Michael Sawyier, representing NICA, said the group could have the court built and seeded by Labor Day, and players could use it as early as this time next year. “This isn’t something that’s off in the distant hereafter.” He is confident the organization will achieve 501c3 charitable status and raise the money for construction and upkeep on the complex. Sawyier said the County would have no financial responsibility.

For the details of the project, Sawyier ceded the floor to Russ Dilley, Regional Vice-president for the United States Croquet Association. Dilley spoke to the value of croquet and gave a thorough cost breakdown for the initial buildout, maintenance, labor, and equipment needed to construct and operate the complex. “Croquet has been a significant part of this country’s athletic history for more than 100 years,” he began.

Dilley went on to say that a facility of the caliber he is proposing could host national championship tournaments. The nearest comparable facility is in Milwaukee.

According to Dilley, the complex--with four lawns where games could take place simultaneously--would require about an acre of land and cost about $95,000 to build and outfit with equipment. Upkeep on the court, including mowing the lawns to meet game standards, watering every other day, and the cost of labor, is estimated to cost $6,500 a season.

The complex would need 20 to 25 sprinkler heads, which would use 50,000 gallons of water every other day, to properly water the lawns. Included in the initial cost is a greens mower, which Dilley said can be had used and in decent shape for about $10,000. He also budgeted for the purchase of top quality Dawson croquet balls-- to the tune of $550 per four. “They last forever,” he said.

Dilley’s cost estimates do not factor in the cost of a clubhouse, which is required and must have certain amenities for hosting national tournaments. Sawyier suggested that one of the unused houses at the park could be put to use as the clubhouse.

“We have donors lined up. We have things in place. We would have the money every year from donations and membership to maintain it,” said Nate Cobbs, Chesterton Town Council member and a leader of the newly formed group, emphasizing that the endeavor would be self-funded. All the group requires from the Park Board, according to Sawyier, is approval to use the land and a long-term lease on it. Sawyier said he hopes the fee for the lease would be “nominal.”

Board Attorney David Hollenbeck asked what kind of a spectator sport croquet is. Dilley responded that the court would easily accommodate 200 to 300 people watching. “It’s easy to come watch. It’s very watchable. It’s very accessible,” he said.

“What I would be concerned about is making sure the public could use it and learn to use it,” said Board President Craig Kenworthy. Kenworthy asked if the group would be willing to give back, for example, by hosting programs for kids and elderly adults. “Clearly a major part of this project is going to be going into residential areas, going to the universities, going here and there promoting this activity,” Dilley responded. “People come out of the woodwork when you mention this sport. We’d be crazy not to try to generate public interest.”

The Board opted to have its building and land acquisition committee further investigate the details of the proposal. Hollenbeck made a point to say that this isn’t a disregard for the group’s timeline. “That’s the way this body makes progress on things.”

The committee meeting will be held on a yet to be determined date and open to the public.



Posted 5/4/2018




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