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Drive plans improvements for West End Field02/05/2007 2:15 PM ET
By Benjamin Hill / Special to MLB.com
The 2006 season was a spectacular one for the Greenville Drive.
After playing their inaugural 2005 campaign at the nondescript Greenville Municipal Stadium, Boston's Class A affiliate moved into the brand new West End Field. The downtown stadium, a 5,700-seat facility that was painstakingly modeled after Boston's Fenway Park, took the city by storm. Over 330,000 paying customers flocked to West End Field in 2006, nearly three times as many attendees as the previous season.
One would think the Drive would be content to take it easy in 2007 and simply bask in the still-warm glow of their celebrated new digs. This will not be the case, however. On Friday, the club announced its West End Field enhancement plans for the upcoming season, a veritable laundry list of improvements that showcases the Drive's ambition and, well, drive as they prepare for the encore to their successful 2006 campaign.
Perhaps the most interesting new addition to West End Field will be the Dugout Suite, a field-level seating area located along the first-base side of the infield.
"This suite option sets West End Field apart from many other stadiums," said Drive general manager Mike deMaine. "It equates to a sideline pass to a football game or a backstage pass to a concert."
2007 will also see the debut of a 1,500-square foot playground equipped with slides and a climbing area, a newly elevated party deck and a refurbished picnic section. Additionally, the concourse will be decorated with baseball memorabilia and the concessions menu has been expanded to include items such as Philly cheesesteaks and lemon pepper chicken sandwiches.
Finally, the ballpark's main entrance has been renamed "Heritage Plaza," and will feature an alumni callup board that tracks the progress of former Drive players as they move toward the ultimate goal of making it to the Major Leagues.
All told, the Drive's improvements to West End Field will cost approximately $1 million, and will be paid for by the team's ownership group.
"We're committed to continually improving the environment at West End Field for all fans," said Drive co-owner and president Craig Brown. "The West End Field enhancements are unique and will provide a more memorable experience for everyone who visits the park."
Although not part of the stadium enhancement plan, another improvement the Drive made for 2007 is the addition of 31-year-old rookie manager Gabe Kapler, a nine-year Major League veteran who cut short his playing career in order to take the reins of the club.
The Kapler-led Drive will make their 2007 debut at refurbished West End Field on April 9, when they take on the Columbus Catfish.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.