Turning some lemons into lemonade, the West Michigan Whitecaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) ownership unveiled ballpark improvements for this season and next.
The improvements for this season addresses the portion of the ballpark damaged by a January fire, which damaged the first-base-line concourse and the home clubhouse below. The new concourse concession space will be 1,700 square feet larger and feature two additional points of sale.
Also on the docket: a new team store in the old front office. renamed “CapSized.” It will be more accessible for fan during the game, approximately three times the size of the old shop.
Finally, the home team will utilize the visitors’ clubhouse on the third base side for approximately the first month of the season while the new home clubhouse is being built. The visiting team will use an on-site temporary trailer complete with showers, offices and restrooms, located in the parking area, until the home clubhouse is complete.
- Improved laundry facility
- Upgraded, larger weight room
- Better coaches’ offices
- Additional storage space
Everything on the third-base side will be open in time for the start of the season, including the suites. Each suite will feature a new short, wide window at the top of the hallway that will bring natural light from the suites into the hallway. The broadcast and public address booths will be made visible to fans by the addition of half-wall windows. The “Bullpen Bar” will be doubled in size.
However, the first-base suites won’t be ready for the beginning of the season. The plan is for totally rebuilt suites with wider hallways and more space, as well as upper wall windows allowing more natural light. The supersuite for groups will be larger and sport a edesigned bar and serving area.
Improvements for 2015 include a new administrative building being planned down the right-field line between the first-base grill and the playground. Construction on the new front office structure will begin this fall. The building will feature a rooftop deck grill area with a spectacular view of both the baseball field and the Grand River.
Also planned for 2015: a craft brew bar area in the old souvenir space on the third-base side.
“If there is one silver lining from the unfortunate occurrence of the fire,” said co-owner Lew Chamberlin, “it is that it allowed us to look at these projects now, at least the ones with the highest priority, and accomplish them with a lot more efficiency if we had taken them on by themselves later on.”…
Chamberlin, who co-owns the team with Denny Baxter, did not give a cost for the projects. He said insurance settlements have not been completed. But he said “the timing was right,” by avoiding demolition costs already essentially accomplished by the fire.
“That’s actually a significant cost we would otherwise incur,” he said. “It was a certainly a big consideration.”
Renderings courtesy of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
RELATED STORIES: Fifth Third Ballpark restoration begins; Fire at Fifth Third Ballpark caused by space heater; Second small fire put out at Fifth Third Ballpark; Baxter: We’ll reopen Fifth Third Ballpark for season opener; Fire breaks out at Fifth Third Ballpark
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