Groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate new playground at John Ball Zoo

Community News |Aug 7, 2019|3 min read

John Ball Zoo LogoJohn Ball Zoo continues to move forward with its comprehensive plans to enhance not only the Zoo itself but also the surrounding park with the announcement of a new playground.


The playground project will begin with a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, August 14th with planned guests, including; Father Robert Sirico of Sacred Heart Academy & Parish, Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo, along with leaders from Kent County, the City of Grand Rapids, and the John Ball Area Neighborhood.


The universally designed playground will allow all guests to access the playground to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. It also includes sensory features for the visually impaired. The location of the playground will be at the southeast side of John Ball Zoo’s park near Sacred Heart Academy.


Inclusiveness is an important component in both the design and also the planning of the playground. John Ball Zoo has been working closely with Sacred Heart Academy and the west side neighborhood to build a playground that is for the community with input by the community.


“It is touching to see the broad level of collaboration we’ve enjoyed from the community as we designed and get ready to build a playground by and for all. The love of community that has consistently been demonstrated through this work is the result of genuine engagement by numerous stakeholders,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo.


John Ball Zoo did this by meeting with Sacred Heart and the west side community multiple times to not only announce their plan for a new playground but also to gain feedback on the design and location.


“It has been a privilege to work with Peter D’Arienzo and the entire team at John Ball Zoo in partnership to bring a new playground to our west side neighborhood,” said Father Robert Sirico of Sacred Heart Academy and Catholic Parish.


“The Sacred Heart Academy students are extremely excited about this new play structure and look forward to breaking it in this fall. Our Sacred Heart community is very fortunate to have such great neighbors,” added Father Sirico.


“We are thankful for the partnership with Sacred Heart Academy as the lead donor for this new community playground,” stated Michael Lomonaco, Chief Development and Community Engagement Officer at John Ball Zoo. “Their commitment to the community and supporting John Ball Zoo’s vision for creating a ‘Zoo for All’ is inspiring.”


The lead funding for the project came from a variety of sources including John Ball Zoo donors and Sacred Heart Academy. Zoo officials plan for the playground to be completed in September of 2019.


The groundbreaking ceremony will begin on Wednesday, August 14th at 10:00 a.m. with remarks beginning at 10:30 a.m. It will take place at the site of the new playground on park grounds at 1300 W. Fulton St., Grand Rapids. Additional information on John Ball Zoo can be found online at