BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Special Olympics Michigan is launching the second step in creating what it calls the world’s largest inclusive sports facility.
The organization has been busy planning since 2019, turning the former South Christian High School building at 160 68th Street SW in Byron Township into the Special Olympics of Michigan Unified Sports and Inclusion Center. Renovations on the inside of the building are already 50% complete.
Phase II of the construction began Tuesday on the 17-acre outdoor sports complex. When complete, it will include an eight-lane collegiate-level track, five natural grass soccer fields, three pickleball courts, a putting and chipping green, 10 bocce ball courts, an athlete promenade and an outdoor plaza.
“One of the things that’s great about Special Olympics is we have athletes from every part of the county, all over the state, but still, having a place for them to call their own, their home, their place where they can train, they can compete,” Special Olympics Michigan President and CEO Tim Hileman said. “Our mission is really all about empowerment. We use sports to change the world, and so having a world-class sports facility just feels so great for our athletes and families.”
Construction is set to be completed before the end of 2024. It is expected to host regional, state, national and international competitions over the coming years.
Claudia VanSkiver is an athlete ambassador for Special Olympics Michigan and said the organization has helped her tremendously.
“Ever since, like, 8th grade, I’ve been trying to fit in,” she said. “I was hearing about Special Olympics a lot of that time. I got invited to join a basketball team, and it was my first-ever basketball game, I had zero experience before this. I was dribbling the ball, I took a half-court shot, and it went in, and everyone was cheering for me and clapping. It made me feel so good. It was like I was important.”
Ten organizations, including Disability Advocates of Kent County, be nice. Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan and Autism Alliance of Michigan, will be housed inside the campus and more are expected to be added. The project hopes to improve collaboration and improve services for families.
— News 8’s Taylor Morris contributed to this report.