COMSTOCK PARK, MI - The players have all packed up and returned home for the off-season. Road construction season is winding down with the coming freeze, but construction season at Fifth Third Ballpark is just beginning.
The West Michigan Whitecaps have three construction projects lined up for the off-season, all to be completed before the first pitch of the 2017 season begins next April 6: a new warning track, a new third base hospitality area, and an expanded playground.
Construction on the warning track is scheduled to begin this week. Lohman Sports Fields has been contracted to remove the existing warning track, which has been in place for 23 years, and replace it with new warning track material from Martin Limestone. This will greatly improve drainage of the field, which was compacted and the clay had broken down into small particles due to years of traffic. The color of the warning track will be a darker red clay than the previous mixture.
The team is looking to expand the warning track by two to three feet along the first and third baselines, both for player safety and for maneuvering equipment onto the field for promotions and non-baseball events.
The next construction project will be located in the third base side lower lawn area. The lower hill next to the field will be converted into a 3,000 square foot hospitality area with a seating capacity of 120. Similar to last year's expansion of the General RV Campground into the steep, unused lower lawn area on the first baseline, the new space will feature a unique view of the game from directly behind the visitor's bullpen.
The third base hospitality area will be made up of two tiers with three types of seating, including padded chairs up front with a food and drink rail along the fence, patio tables and chairs, and cushioned chairs. The space can be booked by groups, but will also be available on select dates for individual ticket buyers.
The final piece of the 2016-2017 ballpark construction season is a greatly expanded Meijer Hometown Playground. Located in the existing space beyond the right field corner, the playground will be expanded from its current size of 2,500 square feet to 6,400 square feet. The expansion project includes a new play structure, new inflatables and lots more fun for kids…keeping Fifth Third Ballpark fun for all ages.
These three projects are the newest upgrades in a long tradition of off-season investments into the facility, ensuring that Fifth Third Ballpark is well-maintained and updated for fans to enjoy. Last year's off-season projects included the aforementioned General RV Campground expansion, extended backstop netting and expanded Safeco 4Topps premium seating.
The Whitecaps open the 2017 season at home on Thursday, April 6 at 6:35 p.m. against the South Bend Cubs. Season tickets and mini plans are on sale now and can be purchased by calling the Whitecaps at 616-784-4131. Tickets for groups of 20 or more, including private party areas, will go on sale November 18.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.