By BETH ALTENA
Jeremy Amshey is a life-long Rockford resident and couldn’t be more thrilled to be the project manager in charge of building the Art Van Sports Complex on Ten Mile Road, an endeavor that he characterized as “the biggest thing to happen to Rockford since they built the dam.”
Owen Ames Kimball is the main contractor working on the 80-acre site, a huge property which will doubtless have a huge impact on Rockford over the years. He was among staff that invited the media, including the Squire newspaper, on a tour to see how the construction is going.
“We are ahead of schedule and right on budget,” Amshey said of the $10 million dollar construction. The sports complex is a project that came to be under the cooperation of local government, the West Michigan Sports Commission and sponsors, such as Art Van Furniture, which ponied up $1.8 for naming rights to the field an additional cash to build a handicap accessible playground at the Nate Hurwitz Miracle Field, named after a young man who loved the game and was on the board of the West Michigan Miracle Field organization.
Although the project has fundamentally changed the property of the hilly terrain in order to make level land for the future 12 baseball/softball fields, passers-by the Ten Mile Road site still need to use their imagination to get a feel for the final result when play begins in 2015. “We’ve moved more than 500,000 cubic yards of dirt, and they all have stayed on site,” Amshey said of the challenges of developing the property.
Imagination is less required to imaging the economic impact the sports facility will have on the town of Rockford, however. It is already happening.
“Twenty six bidders were awarded contracts with multiple subcontractors and suppliers under each of the 26 contracts,” he stated of the frenzy of activitiy going on now. “All but two of the companies awarded work are local West Michigan companies. The number of employees on site varies from day to day but each company has an average of ten workers on site throughout the project.” Amshey went on to point out that many of the workers are Rockford natives like himself, and many of them have kids who attend Rockford Public Schools. He said at any given time there may be fifty workers on the site.
It is not known how much traffic the complex will bring, but the West Michigan Sports Commission has a proven track record of doing its job well. Nominated by the Grand Rapids Business Journal as one of 2012s Top Ten Newsmakers of the Year, the organization brought in 60 sporting events with thousands of participants and an estimated $26 million to this region last year.
Rockford’s job will be to make sure visitors to the complex know the gem of a town that is just down the road, since folks from out of town may not know the city is so close, so pleasant, and so ready and welcome for visitors. “You can’t see Rockford from here,” Amshey observed from the driveway of the complex.
The ball fields will see play begin on the Miracle Field this September, because the artificial turf surface, unlike grass, does not need to age one year before use. The rest of Phase One will include the championship field, a lighted, fenced field, grassed infields, restrooms and limited concessions, covered dugouts, grandstand covered seating for 1,000, a public address system, video capabilities and a scoreboard and foul ball netting.
Also in Phase One, ready in 2015, will be quad one—three lighted, fenced fields, grassed infields with stationary mounds, bleacher seating (one hundred seats per side, per field), and dedicated space for the Miracle Field. Quad three will have the same amenities as quad two but will have four fields and no Miracle Field.
Visitors will enter the complex through the long drive and pass under the Art Van canopy to the parking lot with space for 500 cars. The fields are all to be lighted so play can extend into the evening hours—an American classic experience of watching ball as the night darkens. Amshey said the construction will actually be completed for Phase One this fall, but the grass on new ballfields has to season one year, so play will start in 2015.
“It’s going to bring a lot of people not only to Rockford but to West Michigan,” he said. Economic impact should be impressive. “Uccello’s bought Sam’s Joint because of it.” He said the project includes the planting of more than 250 trees, multiple shrubs and perennials. Over all there will be 12,000 linear feet of fencing installed around the fields—the job is a very big deal.
Amshey said Owen Ames Kimball was not discouraged by the amount of dirt that had to be moved to make the site just right. “It all stayed here, we call that a balanced site.” He said the many elevations on the property give it character and depth. He also said the most important component of the project is to make sure the drainage is correct as playing ball on a soggy field is no fun.
Watching the Miracle Field surface go in will be one of the next steps for the construction, grading the ballfield, bringing in asphalt and letting it settle and then installing the rubberized surface. The amenities will include the handicap accessible playground and family bathrooms so kids that need help don’t have to go it alone.
Amshey said it is a breathtaking feeling to be hands-on part of the entire complex, which will abut property slated for an Olympic-style archery complex, a BMX (motorless) bike racing course and sledding hill. Already in use is an amazing mountain biking course accessible through the drive just north of the North Kent Transfer Station driveway. Everything will be available to the public.
And the uses will likely grow once the field is in place—perhaps there will be winter events, besides sledding. “Once it’s up I’m sure there will be all kinds of possibilities.”
Amshey said he has been project manager for myriad jobs for Owen Ames Kimball in Rockford over the years, especially the work for Rockford Public Schools where he graduated and where his wife now works as an assistant principal. He said he thinks all construction is exciting because every day is different and because of all the different people involved through different contractors.
“I’m excited that Owen Ames Kimball is part of this,” Amshey stated. “I’m so excited to be part of this. You have no idea.”