Breaking Ground

MAPLE SPRINGS – On Fourth of July weekend in 2014, Peter Sullivan was enjoying a visit to Midway State Park with his grandson, Beckett McCann. While the pair were hitting the arcade a stone’s throw from Chautauqua Lake, Beckett, who lives in Brooklyn, turned to his grandpa and asked: “Papa Pedro, can we play miniature golf?”

So Sullivan and 7-year-old Beckett walked up the hill toward the course, which has been part of the Midway experience for decades.

Upon arrival, Sullivan, a Bemus Point resident, was very disappointed.

“It was so dilapidated,” he said. “It was an embarrassment for New York state to even charge us $3 to play this thing.”

It was so bad, in fact, that several of the holes were unplayable. But a funny thing happened as Sullivan stepped around the course’s broken concrete: an idea was born.

“That light was lit,” Sullivan said.

And, thanks to Beckett’s desire to show “Papa Pedro” a thing or two about miniature golf, Chautauqua County will ultimately be the beneficiary.

“I told my wife (Holly) that I had a new idea for retirement and that was to rebuild the golf course at Midway,” Sullivan said. “She woke up the next morning and said, ‘Honey, this is one of the best ideas you’ve ever had. You should absolutely do this.'”

“Then I started rolling my sleeves up a little bit.”

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Nearly 17 months after Sullivan figuratively rolled up his sleeves, the rebuilding project is underway on Route 430. A visitor to the park last week saw contractors moving dirt with heavy machinery. A large crater, which will eventually be a pond with a fountain, had been dug and concrete had been poured for many of the miniature golf holes. A June 2016 opening is tentatively planned.

With Sullivan spearheading the effort – in cooperation with Friends of Midway, the all-volunteer nonprofit group; the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and designer Adventure Golf Services of Traverse City, Michigan – the course will incorporate themes and structures inspired by Chautauqua Lake and local culture, including Chautauqua Institution’s Miller Bell Tower, and the Lucille Ball comedy tradition.

“It will be a little travelogue opportunity as well as a nice challenging course to play, with all the local features,” said Robert Wooler, the president of Friends of Midway. “The park really loves that because of the historical preservation, and it ties in with tourism. I think it’s a great plan.”

Total cost of the project, Sullivan said, is about $350,000.

“The state has funded over $100,000 in materials, we’ve raised $175,000 in donations and we still need to raise another $75,000,” Sullivan said. “I feel quite confident there are a lot of people who want to step up who I haven’t asked yet.”

During his fundraising efforts, Sullivan has sold sponsorships to all 18 holes. “Honor planters,” which will house flowers and shrubs, will be located at each hole with the sponsor’s name attached to it. The idea came from Sullivan’s son, Judson, who owns a landscaping business in Seattle. In addition, a 550-pound, 7-foot in diameter stainless steel golf ball made in China will also be part of the course design as another thank you to donors.

“I’m going to pick it up at the New York Harbor in April,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to have a ‘Wall of Fame’ on the ‘Ball of Fame.”’

And then, of course, there is the miniature golf course, designed by Adventure Golf Services, which Wooler calls “first class.”

According to its website, AGS has more than 30 years of industry experience, specializing in miniature golf course and family entertainment center design; development and construction of permanent, portable and modular miniature golf courses; as well as other sports and golf-related products for clients worldwide.

“Holly and I met these people in Traverse City in 2014,” Sullivan said. “I had a conference call set up, but I said, ‘You know, this will work better if we meet these people eye to eye.’ I really felt good about the personnel up there. Every time I’ve called them, I know them and it really helps.”

Sullivan said the course, which will be lighted, will be open evenings when the majority of miniature golf is played anyway.

“It’s going to be incredible,” Sullivan said. “I hope next summer that people around this area when they ask, ‘What are we going to do tonight?’ I hope they come to Midway to play (miniature golf).”

It will be hard not to.

“This will be part of my life for the rest of my life,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be cool.”

For more information, or to make a tax-deductible contribution toward the building of the new mini-golf course, visit the Friends of Midway online donation portal or call 237-0122.