It was an exciting, beautiful Monday afternoon in downtown Valparaiso as the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new Central Park Plaza expansion. John Seibert, Valpo Parks Department Director, welcomed everyone to the jubilant occasion. Along with attentive, inquisitively joyful community members and representatives of the Urschel family, many city and county leaders were present.
"We have been preparing of this day for 3 years. It's the next step in the start of construction, culminating in the grand opening in August 2015 for the warm weather events The winter events will open in November 2015," said Seibert. "All of this is about partnerships. We have wonderful partners, starting with the Urschel Family, in helping create this. Anything great is always about collaboration and partnerships. This is the day to celebrate that."
Mayor Jon Costas addressed the crowd and shared the vision for the park.
"I can't think of a project that we've taken on that I'm more excited about, in terms of how it will touch the lives of our citizens and future citizens, as we look forward into the future," he said. "Years ago when we started thinking about how we could make Valparaiso stronger, one of the things we identified was the downtown. I knew intuitively that the downtown is the heart of our city, and the heart has to be healthy for the whole body to function."
Included in the new $8 million final phase, the new amenities will include a seasonal gathering area with benches and tables, conference center, water feature, artistic mosaic and much more. The focal point will be the William E. Urschel Pavilion, which will house outdoor events through the spring and summer and a recreational ice rink in the fall and winter. Completion of the park is expected by early August 2015, with ice rink availability beginning in November 2015. This development phase of the park will be completed, in large part, thanks to the very generous 3 million dollar philanthropic gift, presented to the Valpo Parks Foundation by Bob Urschel, Chairman of the Board, and Rick Urschel, CEO, Urschel Laboratories earlier this year.
"Across the street, on Lafayette Street, my great-grandfather lived. On the site where the pavilion will be constructed, my grandfather lived. The site has always had a bit of a family connection. It seemed only fitting that we would honor the legacy of my grandfather with the William E. Urschel Pavilion." said Rick, who also shared that he was excited at the concept of the ice skating ring and that his 4-year-old daughter was already asking when she could ice skate there.
The expansion plan overview was presented by Vic Ritter, Project Architect, Design Organization, Inc.
"This project will provide some important amenities for downtown, including the open air pavilion. It will be a permanent structure that can be used for multiple things. We are very lucky to have a facility like this," Ritter said.
Companies such as Millies Engineering of Munster, Sound Structures, Inc. of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and Everything Ice of Salix, Pennsylvania, worked in conjunction with Design Organization on the project.
Surrounded by the attendees and special guests, with shovels in hand, Costas and his team broke ground for the new park expansion.
"It's a very exciting day," said Tim Warner, president of the Valparaiso Park Board. "I am so impressed with this community and its' ability to foster strong partnerships both in the private and public sectors. This is a sterling example of that."
Refreshments were served to conclude the ceremony.