Fifth Third Bank has agreed to a 10-year extension to its naming-rights sponsorship of Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. The agreement extends the original deal, which began in 1994 (as Old Kent Bank) when the ballpark opened and continued when Fifth Third Bank and Old Kent Bank merged in the fall of 2001. At that time the ballpark was renamed from Old Kent Park to Fifth Third Ballpark.
Tied directly to the partnership deal are several construction projects scheduled for completion by the Whitecaps' 2012 season opener in April. They include a new state-of-the-art video board, a new manually operated scoreboard, a new electronic sign along US131, and a new welcoming sign to greet fans at the main entrance to the stadium.
Whitecaps CEO/Managing Partner Lew Chamberlin said he is pleased that the partnership between the Whitecaps and Fifth Third Bank is continuing, allowing for reinvestment in the facility.
"I think that the extension of our relationship with Fifth Third Bank is reflective of what the Whitecaps have always tried to achieve: a commitment to long-term community-based relationships that, in turn, allow us to reinvest in our facility for the benefit of our fans," Chamberlin said. "We've had a terrific partnership with Fifth Third and we're extremely pleased that it will continue. And we're very excited about the new video board."
"We have been very pleased with our relationship, and are thrilled to continue our sponsorship for another 10 years. Fifth Third Ballpark is a family fun destination and a key attraction to keeping West Michigan a vital place to live, work and grow a business," said Michelle VanDyke, Regional President, Fifth Third Bank. "Our renewal of the contract reflects our unwavering commitment to West Michigan and all the communities we serve."
The crown jewel in the new signage/scoreboard project is the video board. It will replace the existing centerfield scoreboard and will measure an incredibly large 28 feet tall by 55 feet wide. The screen itself, a 20 millimeter high resolution screen, is 25% larger than the size of the existing scoreboard and advertising panels combined.
Also new and exciting for fans will be a manual scoreboard measuring 24 feet tall by 39 feet wide which replaces the existing video board in left field. The manual scoreboard, with a person stationed behind it to update the score as it changes, offers an old-time, traditional baseball feel that offsets the high-tech feel of the new video board.
"I think that it just makes sense, as we continue to add new high-tech fan amenities like the new video board, that we also stay connected to the traditions of baseball," Chamberlin said. "I've always loved the old manual boards like the one at Fenway Park and this old-style scoreboard will pay homage to baseball history. It will also be great fun for the fans."
The location of the manual scoreboard allows for all patrons of the ballpark to view it, allowing for the removal of the supplemental scoreboard on the third base suite façade. The manual scoreboard tallies the runs, hits and errors in the Whitecaps games, integrates the pitch speed and has a dedicated section to display the parent club Detroit Tigers score.
Both the scoreboard and video board were designed by Bob Masewicz of Total Sports Entertainment and are manufactured by Texas Star Sports out of Dallas, TX, and they will be installed by local companies. Total Sports Entertainment is one of the nation's leading sports services companies. TSE provides teams with engaging promotional ideas, audio and video equipment, cutting-edge guidance on the effective use of entertainment to gain ticket and sponsorship sales, and revolutionary software-driven sports operations systems.
"To aesthetically combine a huge, high-tech video board with the old-time baseball feel of a manual scoreboard was an exciting challenge" Masewicz stated. "We are proud of the way this turned out. This will certainly be one of our signature designs for years to come."
The Fifth Third Ballpark logo is being updated to reflect Fifth Third Bank's new logo and color scheme. This new logo will replace the existing ballpark logo atop the highway sign along US 131.
A Helios high-efficiency LED sign measuring 66.5 inches wide by 94.5 inches tall will be installed near the front entrance to the stadium. The super bright welcoming sign will display game and promotional information for fans as they enter the stadium.
Other upgrades that enhance the fan experience include the installation of flat screen televisions throughout the concourse that display the Midwest League Standings, league leaders, player of the week information and more. These TVs replace the wood A-Frames that were previously located on the concourse to display the same information, which will in turn provide more space for fan traffic. The new massive centerfield video display is coupled with state-of-the-art equipment upgrades in the production room. These upgrades include a wireless camera system for fan shots and close-up baseball action. The equipment enhances entertainment content and information for the fans on the new displays.
Artist renderings of all of the new projects are available on the Whitecaps web site at whitecapsbaseball.com.