At the start of Tuesday’s Porter County tourism bureau meeting, the board
heard an invitation from the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau
to team up on an effort to help bring Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sports
programs to the area.
The endeavor could gain more exposure for local student athletes and boost
visitor numbers for the two counties.
Jason Miller, sports operations manager for LaPorte CVB, floated the idea of
collaboration to the board saying athletes in the area wanting to
participate in AAU basketball programs have to travel to either Hammond or
South Bend two or three nights a week.
Introducing an AAU program locally has been “a dream” for the head varsity
basketball coach at Michigan City High School, Miller said. A group of
parents from the school district met with Miller to discuss the idea and the
first tryouts were held a few weeks ago. Miller said three district schools
including Pine Elementary have established AAU basketball in their gym
AAU sports programs follow a specific style of practice and coaching in
amateur sport for skilled athletes. It is one of the nation’s largest sports
organizations and is known to prepare athletes for the Olympic games.
So far, no AAU sports programs have made their way to Porter County but
Miller said that could change in one or two years once the programs gain
more footing in LaPorte County. The idea behind partnering would be to
increase the availability of venues for AAU events in both Porter and
LaPorte counties, according to Miller and Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive
Director Lorelei Weimer. If all the gyms in LaPorte County are booked, AAU
teams could then look to Porter County to hold an event.
Branching out to Porter County would seem logical, Miller said, because the
two counties have venues with the capacity to hold AAU events and
tournaments, citing Chesterton and Valparaiso High Schools for example.
“We have a great opportunity in both counties because we have solid
facilities,” said Miller.
Some of these tournaments could feature up to 150 teams which would be “a
real, positive step forward” for local tourism filling hotel rooms, Miller
said. The programs would start with boys basketball but will later include
girls basketball and additionally baseball and wrestling which tourism
bureaus can promote and market.
“I like the fact that it is filling a niche in both counties and to really
get the chance to work together,” said Miller.
There will be no geographic restrictions for someone to be considered for
the LaPorte or Porter programs, Miller told the board, and although the
focus would be for the two counties, athletes in other counties who have had
difficulty being selected for AAU would be allowed the opportunity to try
Board member Mike Scott said that having AAU programs would also increase
the number of months student athletes could practice and play a certain
In other business Tuesday, the board approved a draft of the tourism
bureau’s operations budget for 2013 which includes an increase of $12,875
over this year.
While insurance cost figures were down due to one less employee, spikes were
seen in the bureau’s postage, maintenance agreements and a $10,000
additional for building costs.
Salaries, which range from $41,250 to $61,109 for full-time employees,
stayed the same. The organization plans to give its attorney David
Hollenbeck an additional $2,000 in his contract agreement bringing the total
Budgets are determined by the County Council which has asked that
departments submit drafts of their 2013 budget by July 2.
The tourism commission receives its funds from the county innkeepers’ tax
and is not part of the county’s general fund.
Meanwhile, in her treasurer’s report, board member Judy Chaplin reported
that the June 2012 collection check was $89,652.11 which is a 12 percent
increase on cash basis and a 14 percent increase on accrual basis from June
Also on Tuesday:
• Warmer temperatures have boosted the number of visitors coming to the
Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center. Weimer said 3,961 visitors stopped in
during April while May saw a total of 7,919, with some days alone coming
close to 1,000 visitors.
• Landscaping around the visitor center has been completed. Due to a high
number of inquiries, the front desk will carry information on the plant life
found around the building. Other enhancements include placing a wider
projector screen inside the visitor center theater and adding laptop hookups
to the theater and conference room, said IDT operations director Patti