The William E. Urschel Pavilion Will Add Year-Round Multipurpose Venue to Valparaiso

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: June 25, 2015

Things are getting ready to wrap up nicely at the new William E. Urschel Pavilion which is set to open on August 15, 2015. This massive project began on paper about three years ago and thanks to the generosity of the Urschel family and the citizens of Valparaiso, the new addition, which sets adjacent to the Central Park Plaza is in the final stages of completion.

“Most of the major projects are done, we will just be concentrating on details as opening day draws nearer,” John Seibert, Director at Valparaiso Parks and Recreation, said. “Berglund Construction, the major contractor for this project, made sure to pace it where the big portions of the project are spread out and done in such a sequence that nothing is pressed in the end.”

What is left now are small but important things like signage, landscaping, placement of tables and benches, basically the beautification of the area.

"We want to make sure that when the customer is invited in, they are served well,” Seibert said. “We’ve completed projects like this before, but this is on a much larger scale. We’re thinking about the summer opening of the Pavilion, but at the same time we’re planning for the winter opening in six months.”

One of the unique qualities about this space is that it will have different uses as the seasons change. In the summer, concerts, markets, and festivals can be held there or extended from the park, but in the winter the Pavilion will open up into an ice skating rink, the first one to ever be built in Valparaiso.

“We’ve ordered Jackson brand ice skates this past week,” Seibert said. “The same people that we are working with to open in August are the same ones we will be working with to open again in November. The winter piece is complex and we want to do it well so having a partner like Rink Management is a big help.”

Rink Management is one of the largest managers of outdoor rinks in the country. Everything Ice, another ice rink design and construction business, is also a partner. Pouring the ice skating rink will take place on June 30, 2015. Nine miles of piping will be below the rink to help keep it cool. About 400 skaters will be able to use the rink at once.

With seating for hundreds of people beneath the Pavilion, heated and air conditioned rest rooms and very nice accommodations for performers or business meetings in the Activities Den, the area will be able to give people the great experience that they desire in an ideal location and bigger national acts will be able to have shows in Valparaiso. NIPSCO and Frontier have provided the technological hookup so anyone using the Activities Den will have WiFi, heating, air conditioning, and electricity at their disposal. A locker room and skate rental will be housed here as well for the convenience of the patrons. This area will also be enclosed with glass and capped with a unique oval, cloud ceiling adding to the light, bright theme.

A dining plaza will sit to the left of the Pavilion, between it and the businesses that line Lincolnway and Napoleon streets. Here, visitors can sit and enjoy their lunch, dinner, or just the day while being surrounded by visually appealing things. From the bottom up, there will be stamped concrete with black and white slabs connecting in a checker board effect. Landscaping, all of which is completed by Lakeshore Landscaping, will provide greenery and foliage in strategic places throughout the Pavilion and surrounding area. Green screens will be set up along the south walls of the businesses on which ivy can grow, and at the entrance to the lounge area, rock water walls will be placed on either side. This will not only be visually pleasing, but it will also be audibly pleasing. Later on, fire pits and fire towers will be added, completing the elemental effect and providing warmth to patrons.

“It’s all about ambiance and community… Lots of landscaping will be done,” Seibert said. “That will be the final piece in the weeks before we open. And we didn’t want to add another water feature that would take away from the Splash Pad, but we wanted something for the sound. And when the water isn’t turned on then the structures will function as rock sculptures. It has a presence that says that you are entering something.”

The whole area will be open all year long and it’s handicap accessible. Umbrella tables will be at the ready for visitors as well as 27 benches which will be placed in various spots all around the area. These benches were available for purchase to the public as donations for the new Pavilion, and they sold in a day and a half.

Events will be grander, too. The Pavilion recently got specially made wooden 105-foot long and 18-foot-tall beams transported in from Arkansas which were attached to the top of the structure. The ceiling that is held up by the beams has skylights built in to let the sun shine through, but keep the rain and snow at bay.

“We know that we are doing something right when Rick and Bob Urschel come in and say, ‘This is better than we thought’,” Seibert said. “When it’s all done, it will be great to see the kids playing here and the people enjoying the new Pavilion. What a great community we have.”