Gary has big plans for renovated Marquette Park Pavilion
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent December 13, 2012 5:28PM
Dennis Nowak of Highland and his daughter Candace Nowak of Munster sit for a snack (lower, center) during the grand opening showcasing the renovations at the Marquette Park Pavilion in Gary, Ind. Thursday December 13, 2012. Nowak worked at the pavilion when he was young, from dishes to bartending and more, when his uncle Edward Nowak ran the pavilion years ago. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 15, 2013 11:26AM
GARY — City officials have big plans for the newly renovated, 80-year-old Marquette Park Pavilion, the crown jewel of Marquette Park, the executive director said Thursday.
Hours before area dignitaries were scheduled to praise the $28 million renovation of the park, LaShawn Brooks gushed about the potential for the pavilion she now manages.
“We really want to just show the variety of things that can take place here,” she said.
Local vendors, from jewelry and ceramics artisans to an author and publisher, set up tables to sell their wares to visitors, and others prepared to give tours of the building as part of an evening news conference.
Work on the park renovation, which included extensive work to the Octave Chanute Aquatorium, a play area, the oak savannah and other features of Marquette Park, lasted well beyond the original deadline, but a trip through the pavilion took visitors to another time.
Many of the details — 30 custom-made chandeliers in the ballroom, replicas of original bathroom hardware, a posh lounge, new windows allowing natural light to fill the rooms and the building’s original earth tone color scheme — were specially ordered, which, along with an arson case early this year, caused some of the delay, officials have said.
The grounds are newly landscaped, and planners built a turning lane from Grand Boulevard into the pavilion’s parking lot.
The idea was to return the building to its original splendor and draw more weddings and other events, Brooks said.
Plans also include bringing Broadway-level shows to the ballroom. In March, actor Ed Asner is scheduled perform as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the one-man show “FDR.” More shows will come later in the year, Brooks said.
“Every Saturday from June through August, the ballroom is taken,” she said of the facility’s return as a hot spot for nuptials and other activities. “We see, in the future, for 2013, starting out with once-a-week evening meals.”
Those dinners will be created by chef Cliff Rome, owner of Rome’s Joy, a Chicago-based caterer and restaurateur. Rome also plans to offer cooking classes, using the spacious, newly restored kitchen.
The structure is one thing, but giving people a reason to drive to Miller is another, Rome said.
“The reality is they just don’t build buildings like this anymore,” he said, while awaiting crowds of visitors. “Good food is one of those integral parts, because through food, you’re able to do things you couldn’t accomplish otherwise.”
“Food nourishes you, but it also brings people together, and people will drive to a place if they know there’s a reason to go.”