The future of a field, left behind when Roberts Stadium met the bulldozer is still foggy, and money for the City of Evansville is tight.
However, hope may be on the horizon. At least that’s what some believe.
Looking at it on the surface, it seems like the Roberts Park project is stuck in the mud. Lately, there’s been a lot of that in the waterlogged field just off the Lloyd Expressway.
Development of a proper park is millions of dollars away, and plans are once again absent from Evansville’s budget hearings.
City leaders haven’t forgotten though, and remain optimistic about its potential.
“It is frustrating,” says council President, Missy Mosby (D-Ward 2). But she says priorities lie with trimming the budget, and not eliminating jobs.
“We have to tighten up the purse strings to make things work,” she says, “unfortunately that isn’t a need it’s a want.”
Development at Roberts is moving at nature’s pace – in an area of Evansville not accustomed to taking its time.
Cars and trucks roar by on the Lloyd, Hartke Pool and Swonder Ice Area sit in the former shadow of the stadium, but nothing at Roberts Park is moving fast.
“It seems like that to a lot of people,” says Parks & Recreation Executive Director, Brian Holtz.
Nothing is in Evansville’s $344 million budget this year to make it move any faster, either.
“I agree with that. I don’t believe there is,” says Council finance chairman, Dan McGinn (R-Ward 1).
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has labeled Roberts Park a priority, but it’s going to take a lot more than just city funds to become a reality.
Holtz says private donors and corporate sponsors will be necessary to launch construction.
“It’s not the park’s project it’s not the Mayor’s project, it’s not the city council’s project, it’s our project,” he says, stressing the importance of community involvement.
Winnecke has tried to secure money in years past, but previous city council had made it a routine to cut it from the budget. Despite new faces this year, the administration is focusing elsewhere.
Still, there is some progress being made. The Rotary Club of Evansville recently fronted the cost to install a water feature near the Expressway. Holtz says construction should begin in the coming months.
Loose plans are in place for large-scale construction, but it’s still a concept. The cost for phase one is tabbed at $1.5 million to install infrastructure, in order to launch other construction projects.
That is money clearly not available now, but McGinn expects it won’t be as hard to come by in the coming years.
“The city is starting to go,” he says, noting downtown construction with the convention hotel, IU Med school, and Tropicana.
He says new property taxes on those and other buildings will help make budgeting easier, and give Evansville some extra spending money.