Funds promising for Hammond sports complex

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By Edwin Bierschenk
Original article here.

The city soon could be getting an influx of federal cash for a new sports complex at the site of the old Woodmar Mall.

The Hammond Redevelopment Commission recently approved spending $25,000 for a financial feasibility study of a proposed $12 million sports complex.

City officials hope to cover most of the cost through an approximately $9.5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 108 program.

Hammond officials are proposing to pledge a portion of future community development block grant money the city will receive between now and 2035 to repay the loan. Other community development block grant money, tax increment financing dollars and additional federal funds could cover the rest of the cost.

To be eligible for the federal funds, the commission had to authorize the financial feasibility study for the project, according to Phil Taillion, executive director of the city’s Planning and Development Department. The commission earlier had authorized spending $25,000 for a needs assessment for the facility.

Johnson Consulting, of Chicago, recently completed the needs assessment and also will do the financial feasibility study. It is estimated the study could take six to eight weeks to complete.

The needs assessment and financial feasibility study are two phases of a possible four-phase market and financial feasibility analysis proposed by the consulting group. The remaining two optional phases would be an economic and fiscal impact analysis and management of the solicitation process for finding a developer and operator for the complex.

The financial feasibility phase will look at the type of attendance different events and tournaments could attract along with estimates of income from tournaments, rentals, concessions and other areas.

At one time, city officials had talked about possibly retrofitting the old Wal-Mart building in the Woodmar area for the complex. City officials now are considering building a new facility at the 16-acre Woodmar Mall site. The commission last month agreed to purchase the site for $2.07 million.

Taillon said the sports complex could include two indoor soccer fields, six basketball/volleyball courts and other activities. Last year, Owana Miller, Hammond’s community development director, said city officials hope the facility could attract some of the sports tournaments once held at The Fieldhouse in Merrillville before it closed.