Construction began Feb. 26 to relocate iconic statue 

The iconic and beloved John Ball statue at John Ball Zoo is getting a new home.
Work began on Feb. 26 to relocate the 99-year-old statue of John Ball to a location outside the Zoo’s entrance. This move will increase access to the statue for people to view and take pictures with and make way for building a new animal habitat.
“Millions of people have photographs of their families with the John Ball statue year after year,” said Allmon Forrester, director of facilities, planning and sustainability at John Ball Zoo. “Moving it outside the Zoo’s entrance will make it more accessible to our community.”
To manage this important project, the Zoo tapped Rockford Construction, a construction company with a breadth of experience working with public sculptures. The project will occur in a few phases. First, a new base will be poured, and then the statue itself will be moved.
“Rockford is proud to oversee the relocation of the beloved and iconic John Ball Statue,” said Rockford CEO, Mike VanGessel. “Rockford has had the honor to be involved with nearly every statue placement in the City. The John Ball Zoo statue holds a special place in the hearts of West-siders like me, and we view its reinstallation as a reflection of the growth and vibrancy of John Ball Zoo and our City as an attractive destination for visitors. Our team is happy to play a small part in continuing to honor our community's past while building our future.”
This is the third time in the statue’s history that it has been moved. It was originally in the current parking area east of the Guest Services building at the Zoo until 1951 before it moved to its current location.
John Ball was one of the founding fathers of Grand Rapids. Upon his death, he donated 40 acres of the 103 acres of land the Zoo resides on, which is now owned by Kent County. The bronze depiction of Ball with two children was based on a design by local artist Gertrude Van Houten, a cartoonist for a local newspaper. Italian sculptor Pompeo Coppini was commissioned to execute the design. The statue was first exhibited in 1925 and is listed in the National Register of Outdoor Sculpture and designated by the City of Grand Rapids as a historic landmark.