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