TERRE HAUTE —
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
The community honored native son and major-league baseball pitching great Tommy John with ceremonies last Thursday at Spencer F. Ball Park and the Indiana Theatre. The park opened in the early ’20s, and John played there as a kid in the 1950s and ’60s (the past). The City Parks crew renovated its softball diamond and on Thursday afternoon it was dedicated as Tommy John Field (the present). The upgrades will let new generations of young players compete there (the future).
Shortly after the dedication, hundreds gathered to toast John at a dinner program in the ornate Indiana, which opened in 1922. The event served as a “coming out party” for the early phase of the theater’s renovations, new owner Rob Lundstrom said. The place looked revived, with fresh lights and paint, and a new terrace floor.
Soon, the expensive step of replacing the worn seats will unfold. Special-effects lighting, digital projection (to accompany the way-cool, classic reel-to-reel projector), sharpened audio capability and marquee improvements will follow.
Tommy John noticed the vibrancy, as did his fellow hometowners.
Why invest to turn a 91-year-old theater into an even more flexible events center?
“It’s a project worth doing,” Lundstrom said, standing on the new terrace floor, where guests sat at tables between the balcony and lower bowl seats. “I’m a big fan of Terre Haute’s history. It’s had its rises and some falls. Times have been prosperous and not so prosperous, but Terre Haute is not a second-tier city, and I think it needs a facility that can be a go-to place, that links both its past and its future.”
Thank goodness, local movers and shakers in the 1920s didn’t consider Terre Haute “second tier.” They saw big things ahead for the town. They built with great-grandchildren in mind. The era wasn’t idyllic, by any stretch. Racial injustices separated and oppressed residents. Vices flourished here during Prohibition. Working conditions physically exhausted men and often blocked out women. In the forward to Tom Roznowski’s book about 1927 Terre Haute, “An American Hometown,” fellow author Scott Sanders wrote, “While granting that there is much in our past we should relinquish without regret, Tom Roznowski helps us to envision those qualities we might recover and those we might cultivate in our efforts to create wholesome, humane and distinctive home places.”
We owe a continuing debt to the people of the 1920s who envisioned Terre Haute as such a place. Imagine what the city would be today if those folks expected just a mediocre quality of life in the decades to come.
There would be no Deming Park (which opened in 1922), no Memorial Stadium (1924), no Rea Park (1925), no Terre Haute Symphony (1926), no Zorah Shrine Auditorium (1927), no Woodrow Wilson Middle School (1927), no scenic eastside campus for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (the school moved there in 1922), no Spencer F. Ball Park, no Indiana Theatre. All of those incredible amenities were just grand dreams before the ’20s. Yet, all remain actively used in 2013, far outliving their innovative creators.
Next week, Indiana State University will dedicate a 15-foot-tall, 2,000-pound bronze statue of former Sycamore basketball legend Larry Bird. It took a big-picture idea from a student, Brad Fenton, and six of his friends to start the ball rolling on the project. Their gumption triggered a broader fundraising effort, helped by the ISU Foundation, that eventually attracted an anonymous primary donor and turned the $153,000 idea into a reality, sculpted by local artist Bill Wolfe. Bird left town for a record-setting Boston Celtics career in 1979.
It took 34 years.
The statue will become a destination for thousands for decades to come.
Terre Haute is not a second-tier town, as long as it refuses to be so. The renovations to the Indiana Theatre and Tommy John Field at Spencer F. Ball Park, and the placement of the Larry Bird sculpture at Hulman Center, provide a great gut-check moment for the community and the chance to assess what kind of future awaits this town.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
Honor awaits 181st Intelligence Wing
As he sat on his mother’s lap inside the Air National Guard Base at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field on Sunday, little Henry Shultz was all smiles as he waited for the start of a ceremony recognizing his father’s service to the community and the country.
‘The mind is a dark forest’
If you hadn’t noticed by reading this newspaper or hearing me crow about it myself, I have another collection of stories out in print.
MAUREEN HAYDEN: Hoosiers’ priorities vs. legislators’ agenda
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Restaurant Inspections: Dec. 9, 2013
Operation Warm Christmas: Giving warmth
Crews from a Wabash Valley heating and cooling business traveled in two different directions — one went north and the other south — during the early, cold Saturday hours with one mission for the day: to bring warmth to two Terre Haute homes this season.
Small tax, big Statehouse fight
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‘A part of living history is now gone’
With the death of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost a “giant of history” whose fight for justice and spirit of forgiveness continue to serve as an inspiration to many, say those familiar with his legacy.
Pepsi, oil and gas agreements on School Board agenda
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Q&A: Wabash Valley legislators reply to questions on business tax proposal
Wabash Valley legislators reply to questions on business tax proposal
Indiana lawmakers face ambitious agenda in short session
Lawmakers are crafting an aggressive agenda for the new year that includes a tax break for businesses, preschool funding for the poor, road spending and a divisive constitutional amendment — all packaged into a so-called “short session” of the Legislature.
Sifting the ashes: Prairie Creek First Baptist Church
The cause of a late Thursday fire that destroyed a 137-year-old church sanctuary may never be known due to the intensity of the blaze.
Miracle on 7th Street: Snow just in time
It was cold and snowy in downtown Terre Haute Friday, but the holiday spirit was very much alive at the annual event, Miracle on 7th Street.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
City slickers: First heavy snowfall of season leaves roads slippery through night
Snow and ice covered roads, cars, buildings and homes in the Wabash Valley late Thursday night and throughout the day on Friday as the first winter storm of the season moved through the area.
Four-car crash leaves 1 dead
A four-vehicle crash in eastern Vigo County led to the death of a 51-year-old Brazil woman Thursday evening.
Former Sen. Richard Lugar receives Chapman S. Root award.
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, recently praised by President Barack Obama for making the world a safer place, visited Terre Haute Thursday to receive the Chapman S. Root award.
Wabash Valley prepares for today’s snow and severe drop in temperatures
The weather outside was more frightful Thursday night than it was expected to be this morning, as an icy mixture of precipitation played out. But snowfall is expected to continue today to accumulate up to seven inches in the Terre Haute area, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.
Lilly grants $5M to 3 Vigo colleges
Three Terre Haute colleges will benefit from a combined $5 million in Lilly Endowment grants intended to help students find “meaningful” employment after graduation.
Otter Creek Twp. moves forward on bond issue
Otter Creek Township officials Thursday unanimously voted to approve a lease agreement that moves the process forward on a proposed $1.8 million bond issue to construct a new seven-bay firehouse, which will replace a current building that sits in a flood zone in North Terre Haute.
Mayor asks for $5 million ‘tax anticipation’ loan
Mayor Duke Bennett asked the Terre Haute City Council Thursday night to approve a “tax anticipation” loan of up to $5 million that must be repaid in up to three years.
39 Indiana schools get Lilly grants
Indiana’s 39 accredited colleges and universities will receive a significant boost in improving opportunities for their college graduates to find meaningful in-state employment as a result of $62.7 million in grants from Lilly Endowment Inc., the organization said in press release on Thursday.
Special admission, activities tonight at Children’s Museum
The Terre Haute Children’s Museum is joining in today’s Miracle on 7th Street with discounted admission, an appearance by a live reindeer, holiday-themed stories and activities, music provided by the ISU Holiday Choir and an opportunity to write a letter to Santa.
United Day for United Way of Wabash Valley to be Jan. 17
United Way of the Wabash Valley is scheduled to make its final push to hit the $1.85 million campaign goal with its annual United Day for United Way on Jan. 17.
Poll of Hoosiers finds growing support for legalizing pot, opposition to marriage amendment
Legislators may balk at the idea of easing the penalties for marijuana, but a new poll shows a majority of Hoosiers support legalizing the drug and taxing it like alcohol and tobacco.
The same poll finds that a strong majority of Hoosiers oppose amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.
INDOT to have I-70 lane restrictions in western Indiana
Construction crews are scheduled to finish several small road repair items on Interstate 70 now through Dec. 14.
Ivy Tech announces academic restructuring
Ivy Tech Community College will restructure its academic divisions to better align programs with potential career and transfer tracks for students and aid in retaining students, the school said Thursday in a press release.
Pence unveils legislative agenda
Gov. Mike Pence is calling on the Indiana General Assembly to increase spending on education, roads and job development while ending a $1 billion-a-year tax on business that funds local governments, schools and libraries.
Indy developer interested in vacant ISU towers
The walls of Indiana State University’s Statesman Towers won’t be tumbling down anytime soon, despite a planned demolition that is now on hold.
Terre Haute gives out art grants
The City of Terre Haute backed its support of local arts organizations with funding on Wednesday, as grants totaling $21,500 were presented to seven nonprofit organizations.
The extra step: Feed company gets special certification
Graham Feed Co. in Terre Haute has attained a Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification from the American Feed Industry Association.
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