By Phil Wieland, The Times, Munster, Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 25–VALPARAISO — The numbers don’t lie, and they indicate a convention center, even a small one, would not be a good investment for the city, Mayor Jon Costas said Monday. Costas and other city officials met with representatives of Hunden Strategic Partners, who presented the city with a final draft of the feasibility study of constructing a convention center in conjunction with a sports arena that could become the new home of the Valparaiso University basketball team and other athletic activities.
Costas said the city will review the 228-page report with the university over the next couple of weeks and make suggestions to the consultant before presenting the report at a public meeting the second week in December.
“I think the report will be helpful for Valparaiso University because it will indicate we don’t have the demographics for a full-scale convention center, but it is helpful with regard to an arena and where it might be located, how it would be used and the costs,” Costas said. “The city wants to help the university in any way to expand its programs.”
VU spokesman Reggie Syrcle said the university had not seen the report Monday afternoon. Syrcle said a new field house addition to the Athletics-Recreation Center is in the university’s long-range plans.
Hunden was hired in March to conduct the study of the proposed facilities. The $65,000 study was funded by $10,000 from the city’s Redevelopment Commission, $10,000 from the city’s share of the county economic development income tax, $5,000 from the Valparaiso Economic Development Corp., $10,000 from the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission and $30,000 from donations by VU alumni.
Costas said the report’s data also will be helpful to HyettPalma, the consultant the city hopes to hire to do a phase two study of the downtown. While a convention center would be a bad financial risk, Costas said the recommendations concerning the arena will be a university concern.
“The report looks at the city and the university from many different angles,” he said. “There are a lot of good suggestions coming out of it, and it will help us look introspectively and look forward to the future of the city. We turned speculation into helpful data and realistic alternatives.”