GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ground was broken Wednesday afternoon on a $4.2 million restoration project for the historic Sullivan Field ballpark on Grand Rapids’ West Side.

When the work is done, Sullivan Field, formerly known as Valley Field, will have a new roof, refurbished grand stands, a new entrance, fencing and a museum dedicated to its history, which dates back to the 1930s.

“I was kind of pinching myself today,” said Paul Soltysiak, co-founder of Fans of Valley Field, which is organizing the restoration project. “It feels kind of surreal, actually, to just look back here and see all these people share a love of this place and it’s actually going to happen. I can’t wait until they start replacing the roof. It’s just great.”

Fans of Valley Field has raised some $3.7 million — including about $1 million from the city of Grand Rapids — for the project. To raise the rest of the money, the group plans to look to the broader community: Wednesday marked the beginning of the public phase of a capital campaign.

A rendering shows the plan for the renovated Sullivan Field in Grand Rapids. (Courtesy)
A rendering shows the plan for the renovated Sullivan Field in Grand Rapids. (Courtesy)

Soltysiak said the project will likely take several phases to complete. He hopes to see the first phase done by next spring or summer.

When completed, Sullivan Field will feature things like a new roof, entrance, refurbished grandstands, and a museum dedicated to its history.

“We can have more serious tournaments, make money, make it more self-sustaining. We’re also going to continue with some of the other activities we had with some of the live music events. Just make it a very vibrant and active space,” Soltysiak said.

Johnny Walker played at Sullivan Field in the 50’s for the Grand Rapids Black Sox, a Negro League baseball team. He’s looking forward to seeing the ballpark return to glory.

“At one time, they really had Valley Field together,” Walker said. “What they’ve got do now is revamp. Once they get the grass and everything down, it’s going to be a great field.”

The current group of baseball players at Sullivan Field shared similar hype about the restoration.

“I think it’s a cool experience every time I step on this field, I know that I’m making history each and every week, so it’s exciting,” said Zeke Nave, a player with the International West Michigan Baseball League.

You can learn more about Fans of Valley Field by visiting the group’s website.