Valpo Parks kicked off a tremendous day for Tower Park with two dedication ceremonies officially opening their new Boilermaker Court and Viking Court, each part of a $1 million renovation of Tower Park.
Purdue legends Brian Cardinal, Robbie Hummel, Head Coach Matt Painter and other officials from Purdue joined Mayor Jon Costas and Leaders Giving Back Co-Chairs Dr. Jerry Rodenbarger and Dr. Rob Behrend among many stakeholders to cut the ribbon on the new Tower Park basketball courts, featuring designs inspired by Valpo’s connections to the Purdue University Boilermaker and Valparaiso High School basketball programs.
“Seeing everyone out here - former teachers, former players that I used to watch, and people from the high school - and to be out at the park today is really cool,” said former Valparaiso Viking and Purdue Boilermaker star, Robbie Hummel. “As a kid growing up I played baseball at Tower Park, and my friends and I played pickup basketball out here. While we were able to do that, it wasn’t the nicest facility.”
“I’m just so happy to see Tower Park coming back and to see my parents out here playing pickleball,” added Hummel. “They sent me a video, and there were so many kids out here playing 5 on 5. It’s great for the community that we have something where our kids in Valparaiso can go and play basketball and baseball at really nice facilities.”
Hummel was joined by Purdue basketball head coach Matt Painter and former Boilermaker star Brian Cardinal, who operates the Community Hoops project which is designed to connect Purdue University with the youth of the Valparaiso area, Indiana and beyond by restoring and/or building basketball courts.
“I’m really excited to be here in Valparaiso and at Tower Park,” said Cardinal. “This area has produced some tremendous athletes, but it’s the people that sets this community apart. Everyone here and everyone that had a role in being a part of this park are the gamechangers for the community. I’ve seen firsthand the role that a great park can do. It’s exciting to be a part of this project and lead this project.”
Painter echoed Cardinal in saying, “Not everybody has this opportunity to have a place for kids to go to play basketball and be competitive. It’s pretty cool seeing something like this. It’s what it’s all about and, I’m excited to be a part of this.”
Valpo Parks Director John Seibert spoke for a bit about the additional park improvements that are coming from the support of the Leaders Give Back program, which also includes the soon-to-be-dedicated Samardzija Field for baseball, a new playground, and of course the Viking court to the north of the Boilermaker Court.
“With the public-private partnership and all the good folks who have been part of this, and with the in-kind services and what has been happening here, we will have a $1 million renovation of Tower Park for the next 20-30 years,” Seibert explained.
Seibert also cited the athletic connections between Hummel and Samardzija as the inspiration in bringing Valparaiso High School into the fold with the Viking Court. Rob Behrend, Valpo Parks Foundation board member and longtime supporter of youth athletics in Valparaiso, is a VHS graduate who jumped into the project.
“The great thing about this park is that it is an opportunity for guys like myself, Robbie Hummel, the Hummel family, the Bishop family, the Cavanaugh family and everybody else in this community to give back,” he explained. “This is just an awesome thing to add to Valparaiso and is just what the people are all about here. We’ve always been a community where you’ve seen people go off and do great things, but people have always come back and given back to the community. It’s what Valparaiso is all about.”
The Cavanaugh family is one that has given back to the community in a variety of forms, and the Viking Court is one way that Rob Cavanaugh - a standout basketball player at Valparaiso University and Valparaiso High School - could help with this project.
“It is great to see the excitement with all of you guys here,” said Cavanaugh. “I’ll swing by here and see the new life and new energy here in this park. It’s so exciting to see that and see the kids for enjoying the new court.”
Another supporter came from former Viking basketball legend Tim Bishop in the spirit of the Friends of Tim Bishop organization. Bishop was tragically killed in an auto accident just as his professional baseball career was beginning, but the Friends of Tim Bishop wanted to make sure he was another recognition in association with this project.
“These courts are just amazing,” said Mary Lou Bishop, mother of Tim Bishop. “I want to thank Tim’s friends. It is just amazing that after 20 years they still remember Tim and want to keep his name alive. Our family and friends truly appreciate that all.”
The courts were completed in July and have served over 2,000 users already. Part of the great response is just what Valpo Parks Foundation was hoping to achieve when they announced their Leaders Give Back program.
“It’s such a privilege to be a part of this and be a co-Chair of the Leaders Giving Back with Rob Behrend,” said Dr. Jerry Rodenbarger. “When you step back and look what this city has done to improve its quality of life here, it’s mind-boggling. A lot of what has happened is the result of private-public partnerships, and that is just so heartening to be a part of that.
“Thankfully we have been blessed with having this private-public partnership with this community that wants to give back to things they did when they were growing up. Coupled with that you’ve got a real zeal for community leaders to be able to provide world class facilities to get people connected and active,” said Steve Antonetti, Valpo Parks Director of Business Operations. “Thankfully we have a lot of people that prioritize that in the community.
The day of celebration is set to continue later this afternoon when similar stakeholders celebrate the ground breaking of Samardzija Field, celebrated by former Valpo legend and current San Francisco Giants pitcher Samardzija.
Tower Park is located at 104 Billings St, Valparaiso, IN 46383. For more information on Valpo Parks, click here.