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Gary, Steel Yard help Purdue host NCAA regional baseball tourney

A Purdue University stadium maintenance crew helps spruce up front entrance U.S. Steel Yard Gary Ind. Thursday May 31 2012.

A Purdue University stadium maintenance crew helps spruce up the front entrance at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. Thursday May 31, 2012. The RailCats home field will be hosting the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament. With less than a week to prepare, the Purdue crew assisted the RailCats with preparations. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 6, 2012 9:45AM



GARY — A lot of work was involved to ensure the U.S. Steel Yard was up to NCAA standards.

The RailCats home stadium will serve as one of 16 NCAA regional baseball tournament sites on behalf of Purdue University, which is the home team for the event.

This is Purdue’s first appearance at the tournament in 25 years; it’s also the first Big Ten team to host the event since 2008. To prepare the stadium, Gary and the Steel Yard made arrangements both inside and outside the stadium.

The Boilermakers have had a “dream season,” said Tom Schott, associate athletics director at Purdue, racking up 44 wins, the most in school history. Purdue claimed its first Big Ten Conference regular season title since 1909, and then followed up with the program’s first-ever Big Ten Tournament title.

After such a momentous year, playing at the Steel Yard instead of their home stadium “isn’t the perfect scenario,” he said. “They’ve been gracious with their time. It’s not 100 percent ideal, but it’s the closest thing to it.”

The RailCats have been excellent hosts, Schott said, and generous with their time.

“They welcomed us with open arms and displayed keen interest,” he said. We have a lot of fans here in Northwest Indiana. It worked out great — it’s going to be a good partnership.”

It was an honor to be selected and to play in the tournament, Schott said.

“One of the things we’re doing, an ongoing process anyway, is sprucing up the downtown area,” said Chelsea Whittington, director of communications for Gary. “Cleaning crews were out yesterday, and our city entryways and exits, as they come in, were cleaned.”

The stadium and the city have been working together to maintain security and traffic control, she said.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the city to show we have the capacity, wherewithal and energy to support this type of national event and show off our world-class Steel Yard,” Whittington said. “This is an invitation to bring other major events to the stadium and Genesis Convention Center, as we work on revitalizing our economic development, this means a lot for us. All eyes are on us.”

Kevin Spudic, president and general manager of the RailCats, said his organization is working hand-in-hand with the NCAA and Purdue University to get the stadium tournament-ready.

The stadium needed to put up Purdue signage, as they are the home team, and remove signage in violation of NCAA standards.

Most of the work needed to be done was cosmetic, Spudic said.

“We’re excited to host and have people experience the venue,” he said.

The NCAA regional tournament at the Steel Yard begins Friday with Kentucky (43-16) vs. Kent State (41-17) at 4 p.m. and Purdue (44-12) vs. Valparaiso (35-23) at 7 p.m.



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