EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – A master plan released by the Evansville Parks Board includes a project more than a decade in the making. New renderings of plans at the site of the former Roberts Stadium detail new life for a vacant lot. Now, questions of when or if anything would fill the empty site are closer to being answered.

“We asked city council numerous times for funding to start developing that as a park,” explains Evansville Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer. “However, that did not happen until last year, city council did approve funding to move forward.”

The five year master plan calls for the addition of trees and a lake, as well as a 10 acre festival space on the site of the former stadium. Added parking near the EVSC sports fields will be accessible through Division Street. Plans also include reforesting portions of Wesselman Park, with added parking and new areas for softball, baseball and sand volleyball expanding the park by 45 acres.

“We are going to address infrastructure first throughout the area,” explains Schaefer, “and start on projects that have specific funding, such as the pickleball courts, the entrance to Wesselman off Boeke.”

Pickleball at Wesselman Park has sparked fierce debate. The parks board has approved the opening of bids for the project. Those against the project argue wildlife will be harmed and nature will be destroyed. Some residents, like Steve Heeger, would rather see the courts moved to the proposed Roberts Park area.

“I think the parks department is surging ahead and we need to step back and re-think it,” says Heeger.

Evansville resident Janet Diehl says her alternative would be an indoor facility that she says would be more meaningful than the current proposal.

“The noise level is indoors, it’s just a better idea,” says Diehl. “Go big, don’t do this little rinky-dink thing in the park. We’ve got enough going on in that park, and it’s going to be a beautiful with the vision they’ve got.”

We asked Deputy Mayor Schaefer for a specific timeline of completion for the parks. He says timing of the Roberts Park phase of the plan is contingent upon the completion of initial phases, but he remains hopeful that momentum will carry these plans forward.