Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist

Hammond will break ground this summer on a new sports facility that will draw tournaments and act as an economic boost for local businesses.

The complex adds to the recreational development Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., has concentrated on building over the years in the Northwest Indiana city, including miles of new bike trails and several pedestrian bridges over busy intersections and waterways.

Federal funds will help pay for the sports facility, which is expected to rejuvenate an area in central Hammond that once served as the site of a mall. The project could open as soon as 2018.

“The children and residents of Hammond deserve a premier sports facility,” said Africa Tarver, the city’s economic development director. “We’ll have a place for tournaments and to bring people in and enhance economic development and quality of life.”

The project will drive interest to the area, while supporting hotels and restaurants, McDermott said. Already, a complementary medical facility is looking to move on site.

“Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this is going to be packed with hundreds of families,” he said. The facility also will have reserved days for local programming and community use.

Outside of the sports complex, McDermott has focused on turning Hammond into a bike-friendly city. He’s grown the city’s trail network by more than 10 miles since becoming mayor, and is adding a new bike trail bridge near a popular event venue, the Pavilion at Wolf Lake, that will be designed with seating on the back of the structure for concerts.

“I look at these as a lateral park, and I would say our bike trails are a very busy park,” McDermott said. “There are hundreds of people who use it daily, sometimes thousands.”

Among other projects, Hammond is beginning an innovative license plate reader program. The technology will scan every license plate that enters and exits the city, alerting police officers to stolen vehicles in real time.

The city’s College Bound program, now in its 12th year, also is still going strong. Through the program, children of Hammond homeowners can earn scholarships worth $10,500 a year toward college tuition. McDermott began the program to help stabilize the city’s population and to offset the trend of parents moving to other areas as their children grew older.

“It’s an incentive to stay here,” McDermott said.

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