City of Hammond & Purdue Calumet to partner in sports complex development

The city of Hammond and Purdue University Calumet have agreed to partner in the development of an outdoor sports complex that will serve the university’s growing athletics program and city activities.

Plans for the multi-sport complex, to be located at Dowling Park in the city’s Hessville neighborhood, were announced today (4/6) at a joint news conference held at the park-based Jean Shephard Community Center.

The complex, when fully developed, will include a six-court tennis facility; full size, lighted soccer field with artificial turf; and regulation baseball and softball fields of natural surfaces. Plans call for the complex to be developed in phases, subject to available funding. The city will fund one-third of the cost; Purdue Calumet will be responsible for the remainder through a combination of budgeted dollars and private fundraising efforts.

The first phase of development will be the tennis facility. Development will begin contingent on the university’s ability to generate its share of the $625,000 cost. Phase two will feature soccer field development. The baseball and softball fields will be developed during phase three. Included in each phase of development are other park improvements, such as increased landscaping, a walking trail and children’s recreation area. Funding availability will drive each phase of development. Phase two and three cost figures have yet to be determined.

“I am proud of this agreement between the city of Hammond and Purdue Calumet to improve Dowling Park,” Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott said. “This project will allow Hammond residents to share state of the art athletic facilities, and it also will greatly enhance our park. This is a true partnership.”

The complex is vital to Purdue Calumet and its efforts to expand its intercollegiate athletics program to 12 sports teams over the next few years. Purdue Calumet, which has fielded men’s & women’s basketball programs for years, introduced squads in women’s volleyball, men’s golf, and men’s and women’s tennis during the current 2010-11 academic year. Men’s and women’s cross country teams emerge next fall. Plans call for men’s and women’s soccer squads to debut in 2012-13, followed by men’s baseball and women’s softball teams. Adding sports teams is part of a university enrollment management strategy.

“We want to be able to recruit talented and motivated, Northwest Indiana-area student-athletes who desire to continue their athletics career while they persist to earn a Purdue degree on our campus,” Purdue Calumet Chancellor Howard Cohen said. “This complex will go a long way enabling us to build a competitive athletics program in which outstanding student-athletes enjoy a first class experience of learning and competing at Purdue Calumet.”

During their competition seasons, Purdue Calumet squads will have priority to related venues of the new complex. For the remainder of the year, the complex will be available to Hammond residents, sports teams and organizations.

“This agreement will go down in Purdue Calumet history as one of the cornerstones of our athletic expansion plan,” Purdue Calumet Assistant Vice Chancellor for Health, Recreation and Sports/Athletics Director Robert Bunnell said. “The details of the arrangement are a true testament to Chancellor Cohen and Mayor McDermott, showcasing their willingness to help provide both Purdue Calumet and the city of Hammond with a complex that will be a focal point for athletic events in Northwest Indiana.”

The development of each phase of the complex will begin when necessary, private funding is generated.

Dowling Park is located less than two miles southeast of Purdue Calumet, east of Kennedy Avenue and immediately north of Interstate 80/94. Due to construction of student housing on campus in recent years, land is limited on which to develop campus-based, outdoor athletics facilities.

Renderings of the proposed Dowling Park athletic/sports facilities are available at: http://webs.purduecal.edu/athletics/dowlingpark