Updated: Mar 25
Written by: Mark BradFord, Published in South Bend Tribune
NEWTON'S DREAM NOW A REALITY
LAKEVILLE, IN – Bob Newton sees himself as just a sort of conduit.
According to him, he is just passing blessings from God to others not as fortunate as he.
The truth is, Newton is a lot more than that. And the proof of that sits on the southwest corner or U.S. 31 and State Road 4.
Where once stood a cornfield barely five years ago now stands a magnificent state-of-the-art sports complex. It is one of the best facilities for a community its size in the United States and it is designed around one simple concept.
“I tried to look at it through the eyes of a soccer mom,” Newton said, “I built my park around what she needs.”
Newton admits to not really knowing where the idea began. He will also admit that the original concept of “just a couple of soccer fields” developed legs, with good idea after good idea pouring themselves on top of each other, almost too fast to incorporate into the overall plan.
But Newton, who started the internationally successful Hoosier Racing Tire company 50 years ago in a garage, is a master of incorporating changes into an overall plan. But he is also a philanthropist who has donated more than his share with little fanfare or notice.
It is impossible to hide the golden dome roof on top of the two-story concession building that is topped by an American Eagle pointing in the direction of the American Flag.
It is also impossible to hide a one-mile paved walking path and the little pond for ice skating; the colored coded fields (clear down to trash receptacles); the computerized lighting system; the meticulously groomed grass; the immaculate and two huge soccer press boxes; the carpeted bathrooms; the kids playground, and the … well, you get the idea.
The list, which according to Newton ended up costing several million dollars, goes on and on.
All built around kids. And their moms, of course. Without a speck of government money.
“I put in my head the vision of what a soccer mom would want and we designed the place from there,” Newton said. “She wants to be able to keep track of all her kids. She wants to take one to one field of play and maybe another to another (field) within easy walking distance.
“Then, if she has little ones, she wants a playground for them to play while their older brothers or sisters are playing soccer or softball or whatever.”
Of course, it’s all there.
Everything is, that’s there – the five soccer fields, two baseball diamonds, two softball diamonds, and parking for 500 – is first class clear down to the MUSCO lighting and green concrete.
“The green makes it look more like grass,” Newton said. “There is more work that was done under the ground than shows up on top. The drainage, irrigation, electrical work, and other necessities were all extremely well planned by myself and my architect Michael Moss (Moss Architectural in Elkhart).
“We constantly changed things as we came up with better dieas and we had to redo things from time to time but we hope to have it all wrapped up before the snow flies. We will have grand opening ceremonies in the spring or early summer.”
Newton is a self-made millionaire who got there by doing things the right way.
“God has blessed my family and God has blessed my company,” Newton said. “My wife, Joyce, and I have been married 52 years and we are partners in this whole thing. It seems that little windows of opportunity and those small miracles were presented to me and I just took advantage of them.”
Newton has a long history of philanthropic endeavors, including renovating the old Lakeville School (then donating it to a non-profit organization) and helping Lakeville United Methodist Church build a wing. He and Joyce have also contributed to Notre Dame and other worthy projects.
“All these ideas have just come out of an idea to give back to the area from which Hoosier Tire has grown,” Newton said. “This project is really all about the kids, especially the younger ones. Most of them will never have such a great place to play ball, with fences and PA systems and stands and all that. This is really all for them.”
Earlier in the project, there were some safety concerns for people who would be walking on the path on the north side of the complex which runs along SR 4 and Newton was unable to present his case to the Indiana Department of Transportation. It took him over a year before he could finally was able to get ahold of the true decision-maker.
“I finally called the area head of InDOT early in the morning, before his secretary was in the office to answer the phone,” Newton said. “I just kept asking him to come out and see why we needed protective guard rails put up along that stretch or road. Once he visited and saw what we were doing, the work was quickly approved fairly quickly.”
The park currently employs four full-time administrators and 20+ school-age workers.
“We encourage the local high school kids to work here, taking over jobs like concessions, game announcements, and security,” Newton said. “It’s all part of the idea of it being a youth park.”
The layout of the park is, in a word, ingenious. The actual sport fields are individually fenced off so it is easy to handle admissions and tickets.
The golden dome on the softball diamond building is a direct compliment from Newton, a huge Irish fan, to Notre Dame. The overriding color theme to the park is purple, which is a direct compliment to the chosen color for Hoosier Tire.
“I remember mixing some paints together in my garage 52 years ago,” Newton said. “I put three colors together and came up with that purple and tested the color on that garage wall.
The Eagle on top of the golden dome points to the huge American flag that is at the center of the complex. The flag was raised last July 4, along with the first ever LaVille High School flag.
For a project that constantly changed as new ideas were added, there are few, if any, details missed.
“As we grow, our expectations kept growing with it,” Newton said. “Now we have it at such a magnitude that we hope to begin brining in event from all over the area. Some people may think that what we have here is more than what we may need today, but our focus has always been on tomorrow.”