Thursday afternoon, the Valparaiso Parks Foundation welcomed a group of extraordinary people for the announcement of the upcoming year’s goals and objectives to renovate a beloved, 50-year-old park.
Members of the Leaders Giving Back, a campaign dedicated to renovating Tower Park in Valparaiso, came together to discuss upcoming projects, including a complete update of the park’s basketball courts and the baseball field.
“Tower park is one of our core facilities and has been part of the parks system since the beginning,” said John Seibert, Director of the Valparaiso Parks Foundation. “We are always looking to keep the park up to date and keep it vibrant for the next generation, which is why we are all here today.”
The project began summer of 2016 when the Samardzija Family spearheaded the renovation with a lead gift of a new baseball field. Since then, donors from all over Valparaiso have come together to raise money and donate generous gifts that will all go towards revamping Tower Park.
“I remember going to Tower Park when I was younger, catching and popping fly balls and being there until we had to be home for dinner,” said Sam Samardzija. “It’s been a dream of mine and my younger brother, Jeff, to give back to the community.”
The renovation of the Tower Park baseball field, which will be called Samardzija Field, will include an all-weather, multipurpose turf field that will be fully accessible for everyone, including individuals with disabilities.
“I was not aware that they were pushing for the field to be accessible for everyone until recently,” said Lisa Kusbel, the Director of Development for the Valparaiso Parks Foundation. “Lack of accessibility for people with disabilities is very personal to me, so knowing that this being done is incredible.”
Another talking point at the meeting was the renovation of the basketball and tennis courts. The current court has needed repairs for a long time, but because ice would be poured over the courts for ice-skating every year, there was no purpose to update. With the opening of the Central Park Plaza a few years ago, the Tower Park basketball courts finally have the attention they need.
“We were trying to get a number of the courts renovated when we were approached by Robbie Hummel and Brian Cardinal from Purdue University,” Seibert said. “Brian chose Valparaiso [because Robbie, a former Purdue basketball player like himself] was from Valparaiso and he wanted to give back.”
Tower Park will now feature two full basketball courts, a half court, and a pickleball court. One of the full courts will be Purdue themed, a thank you the former Purdue basketball star and founder of the Purdue Community Hoops program, and the other will be Valparaiso High School themed for the donations provided by the Drew, Hummel and Cavanaugh families, as well as the friends of Tim Bishop.
“Basically what we have is a number of Valparaiso High School graduates, who were leaders in the community and are now coming back and giving to that same community,” Seibert said. “This is a symbol of not only the funds provided to get the project started, but also the people who have been so dedicated in being a leader and giving back to their community.”
The renovations are set to start within the next few months and are expected to be completed by fall of 2017. Because of generous donations from leaders in the community and donations from the public, the Leaders Giving Back Campaign have raised $550,000 of their $700,000 goal. Every penny raised is an investment not only in the beloved park, but also in the children and families of Valparaiso.
“Kids are our future,” said Jerry Rodenbarger from Vale Park Animal Hospital and Co-Chair of the Leaders Giving Back Campaign. “All of this is a matter of working together and supporting them.”
For more information about the Leaders Giving Back Campaign and were to donate, go to www.valpoparksfoundation.org.