Baseball returns to West Michigan today with the season opener for the West Michigan Whitecaps at Fifth Third Ballpark. The crew at the park is making this year’s opening day extra special after a fire on Jan. 3 destroyed one-third of the park.
Repair and reconstruction have happened since then, and they will be ready to open today, as they had originally planned on before the fire.
Mickey Graham, the Director of Marketing and Media at West Michigan Whitecaps said “opening day we always have a time crunch when we start going because a lot of the time we cannot get in here (the park) until the snow melts…this year it was a little bit different because of the fire we had… we are trying to get everything ready, but also trying to finish off that construction project. Our staff is kind of juggling two things at once right here. It’s a little hectic, but we have a good crew.”
Graham said the biggest changes that people will notice are souvenir shop location and size change, as it was moved from third base to home plate, and is now three times larger than what it was before. In addition to replacing what was destroyed in the fire, concessions were remodeled for shorter wait times.
“We are a baseball team, but we are an experience as well…the food, fireworks, mascots, that’s our thing,” Graham said. “We have nothing to do with the roster, so we focus on the experience of the ballpark.”
As a result of the fire, the park’s overall fire suppression system was updated.
Tickets for tonight’s 6:35 p.m. game are still available, prices starting at $6 a ticket. The West Michigan Whitecaps open their season by playing the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
For more information, please visit www.fifththirdballpark.com.
Clayton Cummins contributed to this article