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Here you'll find status updates for the Belle Isle courts, includes renovation status. Should you care to share comments, please post them on the Member Forum Page.

February 2024 status update

We've been advised by the State of Michigan / Belle Isle DNR that court repairs have been completed. 

The court ceilings have been removed.  Concrete block has been repaired. Other improvements have been made.

The goal of the MHA is to install netting in the front 1/2 of the court ceilings to keep balls from flying out of the court area. We hope to begin play as soon as weather permits!

February 2022 status update

Below note from the MDNR explains that the roof will be demolished and wall caps will be secured. Walls will be painted spring 2022. There are no funds allocated for fencing, floor, seating and caulk repair. There are no funds allocated for netting above the courts. The MHA is considering proposals to allocate MHA funds, and is communicating with racquetballers to contribute to improvements. Thanks for your interest in the courts.

- Stewart Shevin - MHA Secretary

From communication in October or 2021

Please see an update on the status of the Handball Court.

  1. Construction and Funding Timeline: The Contract Change order is currently being processed by DTMB and the contractor will begin roof demolition and installation of the steel bracing mid-November.  The stabilization related work is expected to be complete this year. Painting of the structure will be performed next spring, as soon as temperatures permit.
  1. Rendering Timeline: Please see attached rendering of the handball court structures with the proposed new open design.

Please feel free to contact me with any additional questions.

Amanda Treadwell, PLA

Urban Field Planner

Southern Michigan – Metro Detroit District

MDNR – Parks and Recreation Division

Rendering of how the courts will look once repairs are complete.

October 2021

Dear friends of Belle Isle handball,

It has been a long and weary road over the past few years as the MHA has travelled numerous paths working with the state MDNR to try to resolve a workable situation to repair the courts. To say the result is disheartening is an understatement.

The bottom line is that the state plans to demolish the roof of the courts, then cap the walls so roofless play can resume. We have no dates to share for demolition or construction.

Some background...

As you may know, the courts have been closed since 2018 . This was because roof truss damage was found by the MDNR during court area improvements. The state effectively condemned the courts. The MHA began earnest dialogue with the state in March of 2019. The goal was to repair the courts so they could retain the ceiling as part of play.

After consultation with the MHA, the state had architectural drawings made for a wire mesh roof, similar to the SCS and Palmer Park courts. We felt promise at the time. All this went south when we were informed the state did not have the funds to fabricate a new ceiling structure.

In the fall of 2020 we hired an independent engineer, whose analysis was that the trusses could be repaired satisfactorily, along with removing the existing gutters, which caused water backup problems that resulted in the ceiling damage. The cost was very reasonable - the base repair could be covered by the MHA coffers. At first the state seemed open to this assessment. In march of 2021, we met with the MDNR and their consulting architects. Oddly enough that firm stated that the courts were designed to have a roof structure as integral to the wall support. But they felt our proposed repair was insufficient. It was determined they would draw plans for the roof repair. This was actually promising news. The roof had to remain!

Then they changed their tune. Below is the upshot from the state via letter. We have not heard an update since.

That said, To have money sit around doing nothing makes no sense.  To that end, it has been determined by the MHA board to take funds that were raised for BI improvements to be redirected to other outdoor facilities. This includes, but not is limited to St. Clair Shores and Palmer Park.

I should say that as exhausting as the process has been, the MHA will not give up on the Belle Isle courts. They are a jewel of our city. We invite your input.

Most sincerely,

Stewart Shevin

MHA Secretary

link to emails of the MHA Board

LETTER FROM AMANDA TREADWELL, Urban Field Planner (BI courts repair contact) DATED 5 MAY, 2012

Good Afternoon MHA board,

Please see summary here on a status update for the handball court roof repairs.

To ensure the most timely and cost-effective solution to stabilizing the structure,  the project will proceed with the removal of the deteriorated roof.  Staying on this track, rather than investing significant additional time and funding in alternate engineering options is the fastest and most cost-effective path to reopening the handball courts.  As well, attempting to shore up the existing roof would only be a temporary solution and not a practical long-term investment.  The optimal solution would be to open to courts as soon as possible for the public, and to invest in a sustainable solution that will address long-term maintenance costs and repairs needed in the future. As we discussed at our last meeting, there are match grants available to park stakeholders.

As you know, funding was secured and has been invested in architectural and structural engineering plans to replace the roof with a mesh panel surface (Per the original request of the Michigan Handball Association).  The park does not currently have the budget to implement mesh panels before addressing other more critical park capital improvement needs.  At this time, we will continue along the current path of removing the roof.  The panels requested by the Michigan Handball Association could be installed in the future as funds may become available with community support. This approach is supported as well by fellow court users, including the racquetball players.

The recommendation of the project architect has been to remove the roof to reduce future maintenance costs.   Hamilton Anderson and SDI have acknowledged that they need to do additional review of the structural bracing to replace the roof. Alternative stabilization methods will be researched prior to issuing a Bulletin revision to the contractor for pricing.

Per Hamilton Anderson's most recent update:

  • LAST WEEK - 4/30/2021: SDI understands our next steps and will be reviewing alternative stabilization methods. 
  • THIS WEEK - 5/7/2021:  We anticipate being able to review their findings next week and will issue an update to this team at that time.
  • APPROXIMATELY TWO WEEKS OUT - 5/21: WCI will provide pricing for bulletin.
  • When WCI provides the bulletin pricing, we will have an estimate for schedule/cost to complete work.

We will be staying the course with removing the roof (so not to invest in a short-term solution that would require maintenance in the near term as a result of keeping the roof). This way forward will allow for a more expedient opening of the courts to the most players.

I would be happy to share an update from Hamilton Anderson and Associates, expected at the end of this week.



Amanda Treadwell, PLA

Urban Field Planner

Southern Michigan – Metro Detroit District

MDNR – Parks and Recreation Division


Belle Isle Park

99 Pleasure Drive

Detroit, MI 48207   

Dateline December 20, 2019:   MHA member Ted Grammatico took the reins with his never-give-up attitude and helped tremendously in our quest to save the courts. Ted introduced us to an independent engineer to make an assessment of the ceiling structure. The goal of hiring the consultant was to overturn the State of Michigan MDNR determination that the roof is not salvageable and must be demolished.

Our engineer inspected the roof along with Ted and  MHA Board members Michael MacDonald and Stewart Shevin. It was determined the ceiling was well worth the repair. It could indeed be less than the cost to demolish the roof. Our understanding is that the MDNR has about $60,000 left in their budget to demolish the roof, shore up the wall caps and paint the walls. If we can circumnavigate these funds for our suggested repairs, everyone wins.

Michael took this initial finding to the MDNR's monthly meeting at the Island on December 19. They agreed to hear us out in more detail. The next step is to write up an engineering methodology and meet with the MDNR's engineer and architect along with Amanda Treadwell, the MDNR's Urban Field Planner.  If accepted, we will have the engineer draw up plans for repair.

I do want to express some realities we've found in working with the State of Michigan.  First, the bureaucracy of the State's structure is a tough ship to turn around. To suggest an engineer they hired gave them incorrect information could be cause for "egg on the face" syndrome. 

We will fill you in on updates as they arise.

Stewart Shevin

Posts are by MHA administrators and members. You are encouraged to add comments and feedback.

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  • 21 Nov 2019 2:14 PM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    From the MDNR (Mi. Dept. of Natural Resources, Shepards of Belle Isle) - 

    "Due to the unexpected change in weather to winter-like conditions over the past two weeks, and with similar conditions forecasted over the next two weeks, the contractor proposes to wait until spring to being work.  They would be are able to perform the demolition at any time of year, but it will need to be above freezing for the masonry work, joint sealing and painting.  Our concern if we remove the roof now, is the remaining structure will be exposed through the winter.  

    The contractor  proposes to perform the demolition work in late-winter once the forecast begins to look favorable to completing the full scope during the same mobilization."

    Thank you,

    Amanda Treadwell, MDNR

  • 11 Oct 2019 10:25 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    Handball Construction Status Update October 11, 2019:  

    • Project team will has reviewed pricing against current budget and approved roof removal work to proceed.
    • Contractor update: Currently reviewing the various aspects of the project to see what it possible for this year and will be weather limited.  At this time, the first step is to get a building permit before making any modifications so we will begin with that and evaluate once we have it in hand.


    Amanda Treadwell, PLA

    Urban Field Planner

    Southern Michigan – Metro Detroit District

    MDNR – Parks and Recreation Division

    Belle Isle Park

    99 Pleasure Drive

    Detroit, MI 48207

    P:  313.264.6359

    F:  313.821.9848

    Amanda Treadwell

  • 03 Sep 2019 10:24 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    Handball Construction Status Update from the MDNR:  

    • The project contractor will provide project team with revised pricing for roof removal with out the mesh panels by the end of the week.
    • Project team will review revised pricing against current budget.


    Amanda Treadwell, PLA

    Urban Field Planner

    Southern Michigan – Metro Detroit District

    MDNR – Parks and Recreation Division

    Belle Isle Park

    99 Pleasure Drive

    Detroit, MI 48207

  • 26 Aug 2019 10:29 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)
    • Below are questions posed by the MHA, with responses from the MDNR in red:

      Timeline for the ceiling renovation / tear-out including ....


                    Wall cap repair / shore up.

                    Paint of walls.

                    Cleanup of area.

                    Install netting over courts (as metal mesh ceiling was nixed)

      • No timeline at this point.  The architect has issued revised drawings for Bulletin 15.Rev. 4 today, Monday August 26th for revised pricing to remove roof, new bulletin does not include replacing the roof with the steel mesh, as steel mesh is not fundable at this time.
      • I will provide information as to when we have revised pricing and schedule for scope of work.

      - Status of maintenance:

                    We spoke on the phone concerning the lack of attention to the court area - whether in current use or not. It appears as abandoned and is a blight to the Island and bodes poorly on the DNR’s responsibility to Belle Isle and our state. You mentioned a possible new vendor for this maintenance. Please forward info regarding this.

      - Reasons for lack of movement:

                    We were told funds for ceiling tear-out (and painting) were approved and available. This could have been done in the spring as the work had to be done no matter the direction of renovation. Yet no movement occurred even when it was determined the ceiling would not be replaced. Please write specifics as to why no repairs to the courts happened. 

      • Funding for additional scope of work was proposed for Belle Isle Capital Outlay FY 2020 Budget. This budget was submitted and reviewed in July 2019 to PRD management (budget submittal is aligned with state-wide PRD budget review schedule). Funding was not submitted or approved for additional scope of work before July 2019.
      • Funding amount needed to complete work was not available in Spring 2019 (reviewed this summer and the appropriate amount was requested int the budget for FY 2020).
      • Funding was not available in spring of 2019.

      Let me be frank. The communication between the DNR and the citizenry concerning this situation is poor at best. Emails and phone calls to the DNR have been left unanswered since the email dated July 2. The fact that the courts have been left dormant for close to two years compounds the frustration by the people who have used them in the passed, who have purchased annual park permits because of same, and who have supported Belle Isle’s upkeep over the years. Scott, I invite you and the other DNR representatives cc’ed on this email to please tell me how you will remedy this lack of response. 

      I have updated your group as I have had information available to me from our project team to share.  We can only request and approve work as funding is available, see above.  We cannot expect our consultants to forsee all work that maybe needed, particularly when most of the structures on Belle Isle have had little to no maintenance for such an extended period of time.  The structural issue of the roof was not discovered until last fall and the funding to make repairs was not available until this summer. I realize the funding cycles to not align with your association’s expectations, however please note that Belle Isle’s infrastructure budget is very limited compared to the need island-wide.


      Considering there are very limited resources for Belle Isle and it is one of the states most visited parks, the percentage of funds dedicated to date on the handball courts compared to other much more frequented visited attractions with greater capital needs, has been significant.

      • I responded to you in an email dated Friday, July 19th, attached.
    • Subject: Update on budget/scope of work for the handball courts with architect and contractor.
      • I responded to you in an email dated Wednesday, July 3rd, attached.
    • Subject:  Per your request, I sent paint colors for your review.
      • I sent an email Tuesday, July 2nd, attached.
    • Subject:  Update on pricing with the mesh panels, noted that the funds were currently not in the contract to cover the mesh panels or removal.
      • Email sent Monday June 10th, attached.
    • Subject:  Update that contractor would try to get better pricing on steel mesh from a different supplier.
      • Sent an email to follow up on the meeting I held with you and Mike McDonald to review the steel mesh designs.
    • Subject:  Paint colors and summary of your comments on the plans.
      • I responded to you on behalf of your Handball Association when you reached out to your members to contact me,  4-10-2019 message from the Handball Association with requests to all of your members to contact me is attached. 

      Scott and friends, the bottom line are two things. First, make the courts playable. Secondly, we need a weekly status update from the DNR. I don’t care if it’s “No status change, and why”. 

      • I will update you weekly per your request for status or no status change.

      If this is not possible, please be so kind as to let me know.


    Stewart Shevin

  • 03 Jul 2019 1:18 PM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    Dear Friends of Belle Isle Handball,

    We received an update from Michigan DNR on the status of proposed repairs to the court ceiling (see below). Unfortunately the news is not good, especially after all this time.

    The state is not prepared to spend the money for ceiling replacement this year, at least for all six courts. It is possible they will do two courts.

    The current remaining money allocated is to remove the existing ceiling / roof, repair the wall cap, protect by installing coping and flashing, and paint. The DNR requires the roof removal as the structural integrity was deemed unsafe.

    The hope is after all the back and forth, this work will begin shortly so the courts will open this summer. The MHA will keep you informed on this web page. If you have questions, post them here or email me and we will respond as best we can, so those answers can be shared with all MHA members.



    On Jul 2, 2019, at 6:47 PM, Treadwell, Amanda (DNR) <> wrote:

    Hi Stewart,

    I wanted to reach out to you to give you an update on the pricing we received from our contractor for the mesh ceiling system that handball players have requested. The scope of work remaining in his contract includes painting the repaired masonry structure and then the work associated with the roof removal.

    The Cost for the installing the designed mesh panel ceiling would be approximately $350,000.  The DNR had added another $50,000 to this contract this year to complete the balance of work not yet addressed (not including the mesh ceiling).  This brings up the total budget for Athletic Complex improvements to $835,000.  

    Please note that there is only about $65,000 left in the contract to paint the structure and address the failing roof structure.  We have many critical infrastructure needs around the park at this time. Because of the great need and our limited capital outlay budget, I believe it would be difficult secure the DNR-PRD chiefs’ approval to include in the Belle Isle 2020 budget a line item that would direct the needed funds to provide for the mesh ceiling.

    To date, the masonry repairs needed to address the structural concerns within the masonry walls have been completed and the short term goal for this project would be to address the roof system so that it does not continue to compromise the masonry walls.

    I would be happy to review with you further the pricing we have received from our contractor for this project and discuss our next steps.

    Best Regards,


  • 01 May 2019 11:49 PM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    Michael MacDonald & Stewart Shevin met with Amanda Treadwell of the MDNR (Mi. Dept. of Natural Resources) on Wednesday, 5/1 at the MDNA’s new digs on Belle Isle. Amanda updated us as we looked over and approved the architectural drawings for the court renovation. She was both candid, inclusive and accommodating.

    The detailed plans included:

    - Removal of the existing roof including ceiling lights, netting and steel poles that support the netting

    - Installation of a steel 1/2” flat diamond mesh ceiling and support structure. This will cover 20’ x 20’, or the front 1/2 of the court.  Sample here. This will be supported every 4’ with 2” x 8” tube steel that runs perpendicular to the front wall.

    - The ceiling will have a 5 degree pitch and a 3” space below the support cross beam. This will cause balls hit on top the ceiling to roll back down onto the court floor

    - Additional block, flashing and coping work will be added to fix the existing block walls and properly shore up the newly exposed block wall tops.

    - The courts will be repainted with a creme color. 

    - There will be no ceiling lighting replaced. The flood lights at the fences will remain.

    Estimate of construction timeline:

    Amanda was not able to give a finish date. But a rough sequence of events follows:

    - The plans are currently out for an estimate of costs.

    - The plans need to be approved by LARA (License and Regulatory Affairs) for code adherence. 1-2 weeks.

    - Existing roof demolition. 2 weeks.

    - Repair of any structure caused by demolition. 1 week.

    - Fabrication of metal ceiling and support structure. 3 weeks

    - Construct cement block coping and flashing.

    - Assembly of ceiling grate (welding and otherwise. 1 week

    - Paint - 1 week

    Some of these items will happen concurrently. That said, our best guess for completion is September, 2019. 

    I realize this is disheartening for the Belle Isle players. Our hope is that when it’s all said and done, the courts will be in great shape for years to come.

    - Stewart Shevin

  • 30 Apr 2019 11:30 PM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    The courts are currently closed for renovation. Please read the thread for specifics of renovation details. As soon as we hear anything, it will be updated here.

  • 30 Apr 2019 11:58 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    As you can imagine, along with the ceiling tear-out the interior court lighting will go away. As of May 1, 2019 the MHA board has decided that MHA will not allocate funds for installation of new lighting at this time. This is because:

    - Park hours end roughly at sunset in the summer. It is doubtful anyone will play in the evening.

    - Funds for the courts will be directed toward cement floor surface repair and caulking of floor to wall joints.

    - There are still flood lights at the rear of the fenced area

  • 30 Apr 2019 11:57 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    After much schmoozing by Stewart Shevin,  the state has agreed to change their plans for the roof structure. We have seen engineering drawings (below) provided by the city of a fixed, metal 1/2” diamond mesh that will incorporate a slight slope so that balls hit onto the roof structure will roll back down. This will not only provide a playable ceiling, but also save $6 per mighty hand error! The courts will play similar to St. Clair Shores and Palmer Park. 
    We am waiting on Amanda Treadwell, our contact at the MDMR as to when the tear-out of the current roof structure will begin and replacement ceiling installed. Stewart Shevin and Michael MacDonald of the MHA board are meeting with Amanda on May 1 to approve the engineering drawings.

  • 01 Feb 2019 11:54 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    History in 2018: The MDNR repaired some cement block and added a (I imagine ADA approved) walkway to the courts from the street. This happened as part of the athletic field area grant. The MDNR began ceiling repairs began to correct leaks. At that time the roof was determined by state engineers to be too costly to repair as the structure is rotted. This caused the area to be closed off for liability reasons. The water fountain was refurbished by the MHA. 

    Plans shifted because of this. A decision was made to tear out the roof, and replace with netting that would keep balls somewhat within the court area, but not act as a playable surface. This decision, we were to find out, was because the state had no idea that the ceiling is part of the playable court.

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