Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 18, 2014

ED VASICEK: 'Pumped' about city for several reasons

Projects push Kokomo in right direction

Kokomo Tribune

---- — It has been about five years since the wife and I went bike riding. After having two bikes stolen, I decided I wasn’t going to supply folks who wanted five-finger discounts. Due to some changes (don’t want to elaborate), I felt it was rational to take up this healthy pursuit again.

We have often trekked the scenic Walk of Excellence, but, with all these other new paved trails (and more to come), how could I resist biking any longer? Kokomo is a great place to ride a bike, jog or hike.

The amazing trails, however, are only one thing that “pumps me up” about Kokomo. What are some others? I cannot even think of them all — but I can discuss a few.

Let me begin with Kokomo’s proposed baseball stadium. According to the Kokomo Tribune, “Those involved in the committee behind the city of Kokomo’s next big downtown project have referred to it as a ‘game changer.’ Now, they’re ready to play ball, unveiling plans to build a new $11.5 million baseball stadium.

“A blue ribbon committee appointed by Mayor Greg Goodnight in March 2013 provided its recommendation to build the park during a press conference on Monday. Plans call for raising the ground level in the traditionally flood-prone neighborhood to transform it into a flood mitigation area with onsite and offsite detention areas planned to the east and west of the stadium’s main entry plaza.”

The new park will be cherished by local high schools, but if the park looks anything like its sketch suggests, I would imagine our city would become a magnet, irresistibly attracting a professional minor league team. I like that.

This exciting development is yet another addition to a burgeoning downtown area that makes me marvel. I am not savvy when it comes to the mechanics of these amazing projects, but I know enough to realize that Kokomo (and specifically downtown Kokomo) is being transformed before my eyes at an impressive clip.

Another example is the student-friendly housing being constructed near IU Kokomo. This, along with the burgeoning IUK sports program, is making the City of Firsts a bit more of a university town. No, we are not Lafayette, but we are moseying just a little in that direction.

The downtown beautification projects, new garage, new housing and new businesses are not turning Kokomo into another Carmel, but we are taking a baby step in that direction. This new ballpark — a sort of mini-Victory Field — will not turn us into another Indianapolis, but we are developing just a touch of that feel.

The other week I attended the Unexpected Surfer Boys concert, sponsored by Kokomo Community Concerts. Soon, the amazing Park Band Concerts will begin at Highland Park. These concerts rank at or near the top in the list of Kokomo’s premier community events. Park bands from communities significantly larger than Kokomo marvel at our community’s level of participation. It is a big deal.

The new YMCA and the amazing (and ever-growing) paved trail system is going to draw the younger generations who value physical fitness; we will not be competing with the West Coast, but we are heading a bit more in that direction. Pass the tofu. Well, most of us haven’t gone that far.

Kokomo is postured to grow and prosper. We offer the best value in housing in America (i.e., American cities), have low taxes and get a lot of bang for our tax money. The former Continental Steel site is being transformed into a soccer field. As abandoned factories give rise to new housing or recreational areas, and as damaged houses are replaced by a new baseball park, our city will escalate the trend, from good to better.

Kokomo has its challenges; some neighborhoods are filled with blighted homes, and blighted homes sometime blemish an otherwise well-maintained neighborhood. Nonetheless, if we look at how far Kokomo has come within the past decade, it is not hard to envision an even more amazing future. Each project nudges us in that direction. I applaud our leaders and all those individuals who are transforming our city.

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@gmail.com.