Chesterton Tribune

County officials hear plea for more sports facilities from parents

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

With the recent announcement by the Porter County Council to begin discussion on what is to be done with the interest collected from the Porter Hospital sale, a few citizens are offering ideas of their own.

A group of parents recently contacted County Council president Dan Whitten, D-at large, along with fellow council member Laura Blaney, D-at large, and county commissioner president Robert Harper, D-Center, to pitch the idea of opening a sports complex in the vicinity of the Ind. 149 and U.S. 6.

The matter was also discussed with Porter County Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos who said the request was similar to the Brookdale Park project currently being developed by the Porter County park system.

The Brookdale Park will be located along the west side of Meridian Rd. between county roads 900N and 950N near Liberty Elementary and Intermediate schools, only a few miles from the 6 and 149 intersection.

Lenckos said he would not disclose the identity of the parents, but said they too would like to see a sports complex for local youth.

“It’s a different focus and concept of Brookdale where we are seeking out partners within the county,” said Lenckos.

An e-mail sent by Lenckos to members of the parks’ Land Acquisition and Development Committee which is overseeing the development of Brookdale asked those committee members to consider how this would benefit or challenge the county parks.

Committee Chair Richard Maxey could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Lenckos said the plans for the additional sports complex are very much in the early stages and the group has not lined up any firm to help design the facility or done necessary marketing research.

In terms of competition, Lenckos said he did not see the additional complex as a hindrance or a competitor to Brookdale. He sees this as a good opportunity to create a partnership.

“The idea is that both properties would complement each other,” he said. “Why duplicate the effort if you got multiple people working toward the same goal?”

Lenckos said he anticipates discussing the proposed project at the next Land Acquisition and Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 5 p.m. at the Sunset Hill Farm County Park Interpretive Center off of Meridian Rd.

Blaney told the Chesterton Tribune the proponents of the new facility do not represent a company, but include parents and those with strong interests in setting up softball and soccer fields for local youth to use. The idea is a pitch and nothing more for right now, she said.

Blaney said she believes there is a “huge” need for the sports fields and that there are good reasons to have both complexes.

Meanwhile, Harper said he knows of or has heard numerous requests to build infrastructure such as sports complexes in different areas of the county, but hardly any have their plans together far enough to be substantial with the exception of the Brookdale committee.

He said if a group wants the county to lend some of the money from the hospital sale to build these projects, they would need approval from both the county council and the commissioners.

Harper said he expects discussions to become more serious in the next year. The county can tap into the $9 million in interest from the sale, but the $170 million principle will not be available to them until 2012.

Lenckos also wants to reach out and include the interests of south county residents in the development of these sports complexes. He said in his discussions with Kouts Schools officials, there is a strong desire to have good quality sports complexes available to them for practice and for games.

“We’re really excited to have these conversations and that people are talking about it,” he said.