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Double-dog dare: Statue of flagpole licker Flick coming

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Welcome center to get upgrades

The SSCVA’s Indiana Welcome Center will be getting about $1.7 million in repairs and upgrades in the coming year.

South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority executive board members Wednesday approved taking out a $1.7 million bond from People’s Bank to pay for improvements such as technology upgrades, including the new digital sign, and repairs to the parking lot.

“We’ve got a building that’s 13 years old,” Speros Batistatos, SSCVA executive director, said.

The technology at the center is even older since the building was designed three years prior to construction. An upgrade would allow the center to better utilize new technology for presentations and improve the quality of multimedia experience.

Batistatos said the center needs new projectors, screens and sound systems inside for the various presentations and events conducted throughout the year. Work is also needed on the parking lot on the south side of the building, a portion of which is unusable.

Wednesday also was the official launch of the new digital welcome sign at the center that will be paid for with the bond money. The sign allows staffers to simply program messages to promote events and region features. A welcome message greeted visitors to the SSCVA annual holiday event demonstrating the ease of use.

The bond will be paid back from the SSCVA’s portion of hotel and motel tax collected.

Updated: January 10, 2013 6:28AM



HAMMOND — Plans to bring a statute of the character Flick licking the flagpole, a classic scene from the movie “A Christmas Story,” to the SSCVA visitor center next year have been finalized.

The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority executive board on Wednesday approved making a $10,000 down payment to have the statue by Highwood, Ill.-based artist Lou Cella commissioned. Cella is the artist behind the Valparaiso statute of popcorn king Orville Redenbacher.

Board members decided in October they would like to have the statute of Flick commissioned for 2013, the 30th anniversary of the holiday standard based on native son Jean Sheppard’s stories about his Hammond childhood.

Bill Wellman, board vice chairman, kicked off the campaign to bring the bronze statute to the visitors’ center with a $1,000 donation.

“I will be happy to write that check,” Wellman said.

When the center first looked into obtaining the statue in 2008 the quote came in at $80,000. Cost for the statue has declined significantly. Speros Batistatos, SSCVA executive director, said the cost for the statue will be $32,000. Officials plan to pay for the statue through fundraising efforts.

It will take about six months for the statue to be created. Batistatos said he expects delivery some time in the second quarter but officials do not plan on immediately unveiling the piece.

“We will unveil it at some appropriate time in the future,” he said.

Officials had previously discussed tying the unveiling into the 30th anniversary holiday celebration of “A Christmas Story.”

Nicki Mackowski, director of public relations, after the meeting said the fundraising campaign will include a variety of mechanisms. Currently visitors to the center can make a donation of any size and write their name on a slip of paper, similar to fundraising campaigns conducted at restaurants and grocery stores. That slip will be hung at the center throughout the campaign.

Officials are also looking into the possibility of selling commemorative bricks to raise funds, she said.



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