From left, businessman and philanthropist Doug Blatt learns June 22 from Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher, The Helm Executive Director Peggy Hayes and Dr. David Balle, chair of the Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation’s Legacy on the Lake Committee, that a bocce ball court on the front lawn of The Helm at the Boll Life Center is being named for him.

From left, businessman and philanthropist Doug Blatt learns June 22 from Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher, The Helm Executive Director Peggy Hayes and Dr. David Balle, chair of the Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation’s Legacy on the Lake Committee, that a bocce ball court on the front lawn of The Helm at the Boll Life Center is being named for him.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Helm bocce ball court to be named for board chair

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 13, 2021

 A rendering shows what the bocce ball court and landscaping will look like at The Helm.

A rendering shows what the bocce ball court and landscaping will look like at The Helm.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Visitors to The Helm at the Boll Life Center at 158 Ridge Road in Grosse Pointe Farms will soon have new activities to enjoy.

During a special event June 22, Helm Executive Director Peggy Hayes announced that a small bocce ball court and a couple of adjacent benches and tables for chess and backgammon were going to be built on The Helm’s front lawn and would be named in honor of Douglas “Doug” Blatt, chair of The Helm Board of Trustees.

“It’ll be the Douglas Blatt Bocce Court,” Hayes told those in attendance.

The Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation — the nonprofit arm of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce — will be funding the project, GPCC Executive Director Jennifer Palms Boettcher said.

Blatt will be honored this fall during the Legacy on the Lake event, a fundraiser for the Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation. Boettcher said funds from this year’s Legacy on the Lake will be used to pay for the bocce ball court and related amenities.

“As we know, Doug Blatt is our deserved honoree for Legacy on the Lake this year,” said Dr. David Balle, chair of the Legacy on the Lake Committee. “(He’s) a pillar of the community. … This year, we wanted to do something in affiliation with (his) life since (he’s) so integral to The Helm.”

Blatt, a businessman, has been involved with The Helm for about five years now, he said. He has lived in the Grosse Pointes for 66 to 67 years. He said he grew up in Grosse Pointe Woods and now lives in Grosse Pointe Farms. Prior to his work for The Helm, Blatt played an important role for what is now Ascension, where he served for about nine years as chair of the St. John Providence Health System East Region Board. He and his wife, Tracy, as well as other members of the Blatt family, have been honored for their philanthropic gifts to what is now Ascension St. John Hospital (formerly St. John Hospital and Medical Center).

Blatt said he wanted to see a bocce ball court at The Helm because he’s noticed how popular it is in other communities and because the game can be learned quickly.

“I think it’s a wonderful amenity for seniors,” Blatt said.

Palms Boettcher said Backer Landscaping has offered to create the court.

“Joe (Backer) was integral in creating the design plan,” Balle said. “He brought our vision to life.”

Because it needed a 16-foot setback variance, the project first had to win approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which in the Farms is also the City Council. For a property in the Community Service District, which is the zoning for The Helm, the city requires a front setback of 25 feet; with the new court, The Helm would only have a 9-foot setback. The project came before the ZBA/council during a meeting June 14 at Pier Park.

City Councilman Lev Wood asked why the court couldn’t be placed at the side or back of The Helm. Hayes said there wasn’t room for it other than in the front.

A Farms resident who lives on Ridge Road, across the street from The Helm, said he wasn’t opposed to the proposal but asked if the court could be screened because it faced his home.

Hayes said they “would be open to” adding some small hedges to the front.

As part of his motion for approval, Wood asked that Helm officials come up with a landscaping plan that would be approved by Farms administrators and that artificial turf be used for the court. The council voted unanimously in favor of the motion, which allows for four benches and three game tables, along with the bocce ball court.

“I’m very excited about this plan,” City Councilman Neil Sroka said. “I think it’s a great use for that lawn.”

He asked if people could use the court when The Helm was closed. The Helm is typically only open weekdays during regular business hours.

While The Helm welcomes visitors and would love to see people using the court and chess tables, “We discourage people from using the property when we’re not there,” Hayes said. Users would instead be encouraged to stop by during normal Helm hours.

City Councilman John Gillooly was among the officials who spoke in favor of the proposal.

“Thank you for all you do for the older people of the community,” Gillooly told Helm officials. “This is a great utilization of resources.”

Because of limited space, Hayes said The Helm’s bocce ball court won’t be regulation size, so it can’t be used for tournaments.

Although it wasn’t known at press time when construction would start on the court, Hayes said it would be completed before Legacy on the Lake. This year’s Legacy on the Lake will take place Sept. 16 at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. For more information, visit www.grossepointechamber.com.

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