Chesterton Tribune

Tourism board grants $3,000 in tax money for Valpo statue of Orville Redenbacher

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The county tourism commission unanimously approved a $3,000 grant to help bring one of Valparaiso’s most memorable figures to the city’s new downtown Central Park Plaza.

A bronze statue of popcorn tycoon Orville Redenbacher, who opened his plant outside of Valparaiso on U.S. 30, is being brought to the park by the city’s redevelopment commission in time for the 2012 Valparaiso Popcorn Festival in September.

Valparaiso Parks Director Jon Siebert attended the tourism board meeting on Tuesday and said the statue will be crafted by Illinois artist Lou Cella, the same man who produced the Michael Jordan statue outside of the United Center, the Ernie Banks statue outside of Wrigley Field and the Frank Thomas statue at U.S. Cellular Field.

The statue will feature Redenbacher with his signature bowtie and glasses and will sit on a bench facing Lincolnway Ave., Siebert said, making it an easy photo opportunity for visitors.

The reported cost of the statue is roughly $62,000.

Siebert said the city wishes to pay further tribute to Redenbacher by relating his story in a plaque near the entrance of the park which will also list the organizations which helped contribute funds to the statue such as Conagra Foods, the company which owns the Orville Redenbacher popcorn brand.

Siebert believes the statue will augment the number of visitors coming to downtown Valparaiso. He said Central Park Plaza has proved a substantial tourist driver since it opened last August. Bigger events garner crowds of 3,000 to 4,000 people and per day sees on average 500 people.

Board attorney David Hollenbeck, who also serves as legal counsel for the City of Valparaiso, said the redevelopment commission and Mayor Jon Costas together envisioned revitalizing downtown Valparaiso as a hotspot for dining and entertainment and was “proud to say” they have been able to accomplish both parts of the initiative.

In the next two to three years, the city hopes to demolish the obsolete building on the west side of Lafayette Street and in its place build an open-air pavilion that will also be used as a refrigerated ice area in the winter months, Siebert said. Hollenbeck added Porter County government officials have held conversations with the city on jointly using an office building which may be built alongside the future pavilion.

Siebert said new shops are sprouting around the park such as a new popcorn shop, an ice-cream shop and the Figure 8 Brewery.

“We like to think we have some sort of impact there,” said Seibert.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said the board can approve grants with a maximum of $3,000 for one year in four categories (festivals, sporting events, marketing, seminars/meetings) and determined this would be considered marketing since the statue is a way the park could promote itself.

Money granted by Indiana Dunes Tourism is generated by the Innkeepers’ Tax paid by hotel guests.

Valparaiso’s appointment to the tourism board, Scott Tuft, said the park is a good example for the county of how a team effort can produce successful results.

State Votes to Permit Alcohol at Dunes Pavilion

In other business, Weimer said the Indiana State Legislation passed House Bill 1054 which carries a provision that would allow the retail sale of alcoholic beverages at the historic Indiana Dunes State Park Pavilion.

The bill is now on the way to the governor who is expected to sign the measure into law, she said.

It was announced by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in December the agency would be seeking proposals for a private/public partnership to turn the pavilion, which was built in 1930, into a year-round restaurant and/or banquet hall.

The deadline for proposals was March 1 before the law was enacted. The alcohol ban caused Weimer to wonder if some prospective vendors were discouraged from submitting bids. With the ban lifted, the DNR may opt to establish a new deadline.

HB 1054 was drafted by State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and the portion regarding the pavilion came from Senate Bill 61 authored by State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage.

Weimer said it was “lucky” to have the measure approved this year due to a shorter General Assembly.

Expo Feasibility Study

While tourism officials discussed the progress on creating websites for four county venues, a related discussion took place out on pushing ahead with a feasibility study for the Porter County Expo Center.

Weimer approached the county commissioners in August seeking $83,000 in funding for the study but was turned down. She said she has had subsequent conversations with Commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, who showed enthusiasm for moving forward.

The study, suggested by Destination Development International, would help determine what amenities could be added to the Expo and adjoining fairgrounds. Possibilities mentioned are an ice skating rink and an indoor/outdoor amphitheater.

Board President Mitch Peters referred to the Expo as the county’s “south anchor” and said delaying upgrades puts the center at greater risk for falling into disrepair.

“This is how it has to happen. We can’t act without a feasibility study,” said Peters.

Also on Tuesday, Weimer commended her staff for their work in partnering with Valparaiso University welcoming visitors to the Horizon League Tournament which took place last week. The staff handed out coupons and activity guides and helped purchase welcome banners.

For its next meeting, the tourism board will hold its annual strategic planning retreat on Tuesday, April 10. Topics will include parking at the Dunes State Park and visitor center redesign.



Posted 3/14/2012