Now in their 25th seasons, the West Michigan Whitecaps (Low A; Midwest League) and Fifth Third Ballpark are credited by local businesses and officials as economic successes.
Since relocating from Madison, WI to Comstock Park, MI in 1994, the Whitecaps have played their games at Fifth Third Ballpark. The ballpark is in something of a suburban setting, meaning that it does not necessarily have the contingent of businesses within a walkable proximity that are typically associated with downtown facilities. However, the businesses that are near Fifth Third Ballpark–including restaurants–report a noticable uptick in activity on days when the facility is hosting an event.
The Whitecaps have traditionally been a steady draw, and the team takes an active approach in bringing non-gameday events to Fifth Third Ballpark. According to local officials, that has made the club into a solid economic engine that brings revenue into area. More from MLive.com:
“What Fifth Third Ballpark has done is stabilize the Comstock Park area over the years,” said Bill Fischer, Plainfield Township Community Development director who has been with the township for more than 20 years. “If you look at other areas of the township, like those along Plainfield Avenue, there hasn’t been the stability there has been in Comstock Park since the Whitecaps came.”
Plainfield Township Manager Cameron Van Wyngarden said most residents don’t realize that the Whitecaps are the second largest taxpayer in the township and by the time the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority was formed, the largest tax contributor to the DDA.
The DDA captures roughly 18 percent of all the taxes the Whitecaps pay, which comes to 40 percent of the DDA’s $250,000 annual budget.
“Those DDA tax dollars stay in Comstock Park and have been used to build trails and parks, improve parking lots and improve water and sewer infrastructure in Comstock Park, upgrades most never realize were paid for by the Whitecaps being located here,” he said.
Aside from hosting Minor League Baseball games, Fifth Third Ballpark has often been put to use for other gatherings, including sports such as soccer and football, concerts and festivals, meetings, and more.