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New waterfront stadium underway

Upgrades to the Grand Haven stadium include amphitheater-style seating in place of bleachers.

December 15, 2017
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Stadium Amphitheater
The structure will be able to seat up to 2,000 people, which is slightly less than the previous arrangement, but the new configuration will allow for more activities within the stadium. Rendering Courtesy Progressive AE

Lynne Sherwood is a name that has a lot of meaning in Grand Haven.

The late philanthropist has had a hand in every significant fundraising initiative in the area for the past 15-20 years.

During her final days, she played a key role in the plan to upgrade Grand Haven’s waterfront stadium, at 1 N. Harbor Drive.

Upon her unexpected death in 2016, she named the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation a significant beneficiary of her estate.

After some discussion, the organization’s leadership chose to gift $3 million for the stadium redevelopment project and requested it named the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.

“It was important to the community foundation that her name lives on in perpetuity and that people remember the beautiful philanthropist that she was in our community,” said Holly Johnson, president of the foundation, noting Sherwood was unmarried and had no children.

Sherwood was one of the first eight women, among a class of 668 students, admitted to the Harvard Business School. She graduated in 1965 and spent 35 years working at Goldman Sachs. She spent much of her career on the board of JSJ Corporation, a Grand Haven-based durable goods manufacturing company co-founded by her grandfather. She moved back to her hometown of Grand Haven in 1996.

Grand Haven city officials approved a grant agreement with the state to receive $280,000 from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. As part of the agreement, the city is providing a $674,900 match. Fifth Third Bank made a $25,000 pledge toward the project.

Expected to open this Memorial Day, the stadium, which hosts a variety of events and concerts, is undergoing multiple upgrades worth an estimated $3.2 million.

The original bleachers, installed in 1958 when the structure was built, have been removed and will be replaced with amphitheater-style seating that can seat up to 2,000. It’s a couple hundred fewer than the previous seating, but it’s a trade-off Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis was willing to make. He said the steel of the former structure was unattractive.

“We wanted something a little more subdued and passive,” McGinnis said.

Upgrades also include a multipurpose area that can be used for volleyball, dancing and eventually a seasonal ice rink; a band shell; winter fire pits and flush covers; concession stand; flagpoles; trash and recycling bins; new utilities; landscaping; and a grass seating area.

Progressive AE is managing the design and construction.

Since the bleachers have been removed, the waterfront can be seen from Washington Avenue, a main downtown street that runs perpendicular to North Harbor Drive.

This makes a big difference in the flow of downtown, according to Joy Gaasch, president of the Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce.

She said the bleachers sort of separated the downtown area from the waterfront activities, and people did not always realize Washington Avenue was connected to the waterfront walkways because of the obstructed view. She said the new openness creates a space that invites visitors to walk between downtown and the water.

“From the standpoint of the businesses owners downtown, connectivity to the water has always been a huge discussion point and desire,” Gaasch said.

Planning for the project began in 2011 with members of the Grand Haven Main Street Downtown Development Authority. The Community Foundation and Sherwood co-funded the $30,000 to hire Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio of Ann Arbor to conduct community engagement sessions and create the initial design vision.

The original budget of the project was $4.5 million and included construction of the adjacent train depot that would allow inside events year-round. After considering the budget, McGinnis said they decided to make that piece “phase 2” of the project, along with other “bells and whistles,” such as a sculpture park and certain styles of lighting.

Phase 2 is not yet designed, but McGinnis estimated it will cost around $1.5 million. He said he hopes to begin that in 2019.

Rather than facilitate another public funding campaign, he said he likely will approach a few area philanthropists to solicit donations for the second phase. There likely will not be funding left from the first portion of the project after contingencies, professional fees and unexpected development, but anything left will go toward phase 2, he said.

This is the last piece of the city’s overall vision of revitalizing the entire Grand Haven waterfront area. After developments over the past few years, McGinnis said there are more than 2 miles of green space along the water for visitors to enjoy.

“Grand Haven’s got a marvelous waterfront. This’ll be the finishing touch on it,” he said.

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