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« Your Newspaper

In South Bend, a little stimulus inspiration

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Published March 16, 2009

It’s back to work after a fun weekend in South Bend, Ind.

I was there for a youth hockey tourney.

In taking in the town, we stumbled upon a couple areas that I thought were worth touting as we look at millions of dollars coming into our communities via stimulus money.

One was the hockey arena we played in. Here’s what the tourney director told me about the facility:

“The Ice Box used to be a factory that built parts for bombs for WWII (Some may claim a place that actually made the bombs, but I believe it was 'parts'). There is an incredible basement under the old rink that has a catacomb of corridors that have been blocked off in several locations, that go 100's and 100's of yards to other older buildings – most of them nonexistent anymore – and under streets, with old locker room facilities for the employees there. Rink 1 was put in in 1968 by volunteers when the building was donated from Steel Warehouse in South Bend (from the Lerman family, many of whom still play hockey there, and are sort of the 'godfathers' of South Bend Hockey). It's a classic rink. I always loved playing there as a kid – especially with the yellow lumps of ice all over the rink from roof leaks... (They) have finally been fixed!”

I’m not exactly saying all old factories should be turned into hockey arenas. I just liked that something old and beyond original use was turned into something useful for a new generation.

The next site is similar in theme.

It's East Race Waterway. If you stumbled upon it and weren’t aware of it, you would mistake it for a flood control culvert. But it’s actually a 1,900-foot-long whitewater course right through the heart of downtown South Bend.

It was built as an off-shoot to the St. Joseph River and it provides thousands of people hours of low-cost, active enjoyment every summer. For decades, the river offered South Bend various uses.

Then a group with vision and willpower helped a community give yet another definition to the mighty St. Joe.

We’re looking at millions of dollars coming into our communities via this stimulus package.

There are some essential, core needs for these funds in every community.

Then there are bogus excuses for the stimulus, like the WRTA’s $2 million office expansion.

If I’m given the choice of expanding a meeting room for 15 people or retro-fitting existing facilities into new definitions that thousands of people will use, it’s very easy for me to choose the best way to apply stimulus funds.



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