GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An effort has been underway for more than a year now to restore the glory at Sullivan Field, formally known as Valley Field.
The nonprofit group Fans of Valley Field have been hosting events at Sullivan Field, working to raise awareness and money to restore the ballpark.
The ballpark nestled in a neighborhood on the northwest side of Grand Rapids is once again bursting with activity like it used to back in its heydays when it was built in the 1930s.
“It has just been gaining a lot of momentum. It has been fun having events having people come here for concerts, chili cookoffs, children’s events,” said Paul Soltysiak, vice president of Fans of Valley Field
The resurgence of events is thanks to a group known as the Fans of Valley Field.
“The city has $1.1 million as part of the tax mileage for this, but we want to do a little bit more than that. So as of Nov. 10, we are having our first gala ever (2022 Diamond Gala), and we are going to bridge the gap and try and raise an additional $1.5 million,” Soltysiak said.
The money will go to redo the actual field, fix the roof over the grandstands, and refurbish the locker rooms so they can bring America’s favorite pastime back to the field.
“We are also looking at ways that we can make this field and park space a little bit more year-round to bring more activity and more vitality to this park space on an annual basis,” said David Marquardt, director of the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department. “In addition, we are finding ways to bring more events to that space and really open it up and make it a more welcoming space for those ballgames and outside of those ballgames as well.”
Fans of Valley Field is working collaboratively with the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department to make improvements to the historic ballpark.
“The key to all of this is elevating the importance of the history of this space, the value of this space, and what that brings economically and recreationally to our city,” said Marquardt.
The planned improvements were included in the updated parks and recreation master plan, which was adopted by the city commission earlier this year. The city expects to start work on the improvements next year.
“Fans of Valley Field is working on fundraising. Together we are embarking on a timeline that looks at the beginning investment in this historic field next spring and working on these improvements over the next 18 months to two years for the time to get that work completed,” said Marquardt.
“We now are in the process of doing specific planning, budgeting, scheduling. The construction management company has been selected, which was a very diligent process. Rockford Construction was chosen,” said Soltysiak.
The nonprofit has been working to bring people back to the ballpark for a little over a year now with special events like what will happen this Saturday, Oct. 1, when they host West Michigan’s premier chili cookoff with 40 teams facing off.
“All different sorts of chili. We have four bands playing all afternoon. We have lawn games. We have cornhole. There are activities for the children and adults. Cash bar. You can spend an hour here eating chili, or you can spend the whole day here and have a great time,” said Dan Verhil with Fans of Valley Field.
If you want to attend the chili cookoff, it is Saturday, Oct. 1, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased there on Saturday or ahead of time online.