Board, stakeholders break ground for Village Center pavilion project
By Kat Halfman
HOWARD – It was an exciting afternoon for the Village of Howard community July 14, as ground was officially broken for the long-anticipated Arnold and Gloria Schmidt Pavilion and Village Center public space project.
“The idea behind this facility is to give people a place to be together, a place to engage, to give people a sense of community,” Village Administrator Paul Evert said. “There will be live performances in the amphitheater, ice skating, roller skating and of course there’ll be a biergarten – maybe avoid that combination,” he joked.
Construction representatives, community members and elected officials – both at the municipal and state level, including several members of the Howard Village Board and staff, Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach, State Sens. Robert Cowles and Eric Wimberger and State Rep. David Steffen – were in attendance for the groundbreaking.
Evert said the project, which is planned for east of the Howard Commons apartment complex and estimated to be complete by next summer, has been a long time coming.
“I didn’t work here until 11 years ago, and the project was talked about (before that), as early as the late ’90s,” he said. “So, we had a lot of false starts and different things happening in the world that delayed construction, like recessions and pandemics.”
Evert thanked village staff for making the project possible.
He also acknowledged the contribution of Dan Schmidt.
“I want to mention that this project doesn’t happen today if it isn’t for the generosity of Dan Schmidt – he isn’t here today, but naming the pavilion after his mother and father, Arnold and Gloria Schmidt, really gave us the ability to launch what we think is going to be a great project,” he said.
Steffen, who previously served on the Howard Village Board from 2007-14, said it was during that time that things really started with the village center idea.
“As the Village of Howard was coming to age, like any individual that is (coming to age), they ask themselves a few questions: Where am I? What do I want? And how do I get there?” he said. “And the village was doing that same thing at that point. Through a series of listening sessions, hearings, community surveys and one-on-one coffee shop discussions, it became clear that the residents and businesses of Howard wanted to have a place to congregate, connect and celebrate. I was a part of that for seven years, and I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, to be quite frank.”
Despite some setbacks, Village President Burt McIntyre said the determination of those involved remained strong.
McIntyre said he has been a backer of the project for the past 18 years.
“Back in 2004, I got a phone call from a friend, he said, ‘Let’s go down to the village hall, they have a presentation you might be interested in,’” McIntyre said. “So, we went down there, and they had a display, this concept of a village center, with the motivation to be an active community spotlight in terms of where people can go and just hang out or for special events and things like that.”
From then on, he said he too saw the value in that type of space.
McIntyre said it’s important to the community to have a space to gather.
“I am so excited that we’re going to be able to give the village something that’s not commercial,” he said. “We don’t expect to be making money out of it, and we don’t need to – it’s just for pleasure and entertainment. And I think years from now, long after I’m gone and most of us here, people are gonna look back at this and say whatever the board did, this was a good decision.”
Evert said the Village Board went through two iterations of possible mock-ups with different architectural firms, but ultimately decided to work with Shive-Hattery, an architecture and engineering firm that’s based in Valparaiso, Indiana.
“They did a project (the William E. Urschel Pavilion and Central Park Plaza) that we fell in love with, and we knew we wanted something a lot like it,” he said. “Kind of like when you go walk through a home you’re thinking about buying, you know if it’s you or not.”
Last, but certainly not least, Evert gave credit to the Miron construction team for their hard work on the project so far, as well as for what is yet to come.
“I’d like to recognize the people who do all the behind-the-scenes work,” he said.
The project itself
Evert said the public space will be the focal point for the Village Center project.
The project includes an activity center on the west side of the site adjacent to a pavilion in the center, where a splash pad and beer garden also will be located, along with an amphitheater with a lawn area and stage off to the east.
During the winter months, the pavilion will serve as a skating rink – with an artificial cooling system that will allow it to stay open at least from November through February.
The multi-million dollar project is being funded through naming rights and TIF #8 revenues – which is being extended by three additional years to help assist with debt service.
Additional roads, roadway and trail extensions, parking stalls, and utilities also are part of the development.
Evert said work has already started, with completion by spring or summer 2023.