Purdue Northwest constantly seeks to outdo itself, in academics, athletics, and community building. On Saturday, they did just that with their second annual Fall Sports Festival and Homecoming Tailgate at Dowling Park in Hammond, which brought the community together for a showcase of PNW’s best and brightest.
“Ultimately, this event is about trying to tie us and our athletes into the community,” said Rob Huizenga, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information, Marketing and Event Management. “We always have home sporting events, but not always a way to connect with the Hammond community. That’s what makes this special, we want to show that Dowling Park has a partnership with the city. That’s what the real special aspect of this is, it’s not just about Purdue Northwest Athletics – it’s about tying in with the local community.”
People packed the park as they explored the vendors, enjoyed the food, and played in bounce houses while PNW’s teams took the field in soccer, baseball, softball, and tennis matches. The athletes enjoyed the opportunity to get out and engage with the community, while taking the rare chance to see their peers in other sports demonstrate their talent.
“It’s great to get everyone out here,” said Adam Joseph, a freshman member of PNW’s cross-country team. “We wanted to come out and have fun, and of course to see our peer athletes. It’s awesome to see what we don’t usually get to, like baseball, soccer, softball, and tennis. It’s a way to bring us closer, like a family you could say.”
The unique opportunity to see so many different sports in one place got the crowds going and brought people together. Kids and families also enjoyed meeting PNW's mascot, Leo, and Ronald McDonald as they danced and posed for pictures among black and gold decorations. McDonald's is a longtime partner of PNW and Bob Mazzaro, former president of Northwest Indiana’s McDonald's Owner/Operators, loved seeing the community come together.
“We always get involved with things like this that help the community,” said Mazzaro. “It’s important to help with health, education, and structure.”
Events like the Fall Sports Festival are PNW’s way to give back to the region, and show off the spirit that makes it such a unique school. They aren’t planning on slowing down anytime soon, as just this year, Purdue Northwest athletics moved to the NCAA Division II.
“We’ve got big, bold goals,” said PNW’s Athletic Director Rick Costello. “We’re going to be competing with a lot of great institutions and we want to compete at the top of the league. Our goal is academic and athletic excellence. It’s a very aggressive goal but we know that we’re going to get there.”
For more information about Purdue University Northwest Athletics, please visit www.pnwathletics.com.