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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 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

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  • 30 Jan 2014 12:22 AM | Stewart Shevin (Administrator)

    Report from MHA President, Dale Chimenti

    BELLE ISLE, January 30, 2014

    This morning, a meeting of the Advisory Board established by the Governor of the State of Michigan convened at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle.  Tom Obrien and I attended this public meeting for the purpose of ensuring that our presence on the Island is well-known and to establish a relationship with the State of Michigan, Department of Natural Resources who is now running Belle Isle.

    We have managed to do just that and are very pleased to report that we had a one-on one with Keith Creagh the Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ron Olson, Chief of Parks and Recreation for the State of Michigan, Scott Pratt, Chief of southern field operations, Michael Turrell of the same office who is entrusted with the daily running of the Island and many of the other Board Members including Alicia Minter, Director of the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department, as well as non –governmental Board Members such as Michael Curis….

    I might add that in a conversation with Keith Creagh, he indicated that he is a racquetball player, to which I replied, “this is not going well”.  Keith, Tom Obrien and I had a good laugh but I assure you that the State knows who we are.

    Previously, we had dealt with Alicia Minter as she is/was the head of the Parks and Rec in Detroit.  John Schandevel had established a great working relationship with Alicia, and while the City of Detroit has no say in the affairs on Belle Isle, Alicia is a Board Member and was very cordial and accommodating.

    On behalf of the Michigan Handball Association , I am very excited to report that our presence at the meeting was critical and landed us directly in their sites as a “partner agency”, bureaucratic lingo for a very interested partner…  In fact, Ron Olson mentioned the handball community in his public presentation to the Board and audience. We are on their radar screen….

    It is the intention of the Dept of Natural Resources to collaborate with :

    City of Detroit Staff

    Advisory Committee

    Belle Isle Conservancy ( The MHA is a member)

    On Island Stakeholders (such as the MHA…)

    Partner Agencies ( MDOT, MSP, MDEQ, US Army Corp of Engineers)

    The current focus of the State is to focus on the upcoming season, the search for initial investments, listening sessions, and leveraging resources.  As to the latter, we hope that the State of Michigan will be a source of funding for continued improvements to the courts, but we are realistic in our goals and expect that you, the handball community, will continue to provide financial support in the form of annual dues and donations to the Michigan Handball Association.   We remain committed to performing repairs, maintenance and improvements to the facility. 

    Thank you for your support . We do appreciate your comments and suggestions so please feel free to contact me, Rick Leonard, Bill Cantwell, or Tom Obrien .

    We look forward to seeing you on Belle Isle in a few months…..

    Dale Chimenti

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