Fifth Third Ballpark
|Location||4500 West River Drive
Comstock Park, MI 49321
|Owner||West Michigan Whitecaps Corp.|
|Operator||West Michigan Whitecaps Corp.|
|Field size||Left field: 317 ft (97 m)
Center field: 402 ft (123 m)
Right field: 327 ft (100 m)
|Broke ground||May 1993|
|Opened||April 12, 1994|
|Construction cost||$6.5 million
($10.5 million in 2016 dollars)
|Services engineer||Progressive AE|
|General contractor||Wolverine Building Group|
|West Michigan Whitecaps (1994–present)|
Fifth Third Ballpark is a baseball stadium located in Comstock Park, Michigan, just north of Grand Rapids. Established as Old Kent Park in 1994, the stadium hosts a minor league baseball team, the West Michigan Whitecaps, and other sporting events. The ballpark's Fifth Third Burger was featured on an episode of Man v. Food. A fire damaged some of the first base side of the stadium on January 3, 2014, but the stadium re-opened in time to host the Whitecaps for the 2014 season.
Fifth Third Ballpark is home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, a professional minor league baseball team, and class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Fifth Third Ballpark was originally built in 1994 as Old Kent Park. The name was changed when Fifth Third Bank purchased Old Kent Bank in 2000.
Fifth Third Ballpark opened with a seating capacity of 5,701 has been expanded in 1996 to seat 10,700, and 1999 to seat 11,000. It currently has a seating capacity of 9,684, including 8,025 fixed chairback seats. The stadium was built entirely with private funds. No taxpayer dollars were used in the construction.
In addition to baseball, Fifth Third Ballpark can also be used for other events including motorsports and concerts, where it seats up to 15,000. The ballpark hosts a large display of Christmas lights.
The ballpark is also notable for its Fifth Third Burger, a five-pound (2.3 kg), 4,800-calorie burger made with five 1⁄3-pound (0.15 kg) burger patties and topped with American cheese, nacho cheese sauce, chili, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, salsa, sour cream, and tortilla chips, all stuffed inside an eight-inch (20 cm) sesame seed bun. On the Season 2 "Baseball Special" episode of The Travel Channel's Man v. Food, host Adam Richman participated in a challenge in which he had to eat this burger in under the final 2 1⁄2 innings of the Whitecaps game (that is, after the 7th Inning Stretch). Adam won the challenge on behalf of "man", earning him a commemorative "Call 911" T-shirt and his photo posted on the Wall of Fame. As of the time of the July 2009 taping, 1,213 Fifth Third Burgers had been sold with Richman becoming just the 157th person to earn the T-shirt.
On September 29, 2007, Grand Valley State University defeated Wayne State University, 41–10, in the first-ever football game to be played at Fifth Third Ballpark. Grand Valley wore "Throwback" uniforms for the event.
On January 3, 2014, a fire broke out in one of the skyboxes, destroying much of the first base side of the structure and several skyboxes.The fire was caused by a space heater set next to a Rubbermaid trash can. Employees at the park at the time were able to escape without injury. The stadium reopened in time for Opening Day, and remodeling finished in time for the ballpark to host the 2014 Midwest League All-Star Game.
- "2016 Seating Improvements at Fifth Third Ballpark" (Press release). Minor League Baseball. March 30, 2017. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
- "By the Numbers". West Michigan Whitecaps. February 11, 2009. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
- Wallner, Peter J. (January 4, 2014). "Fifth Third Ballpark Timeline: Key Dates, Events and Facts in Stadium's History Before Massive Fire". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "Donald E Nolte II, PE Professional Resume" (PDF). Next Engineering and Design. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "Fifth Third Ballpark". Wolverine Building Group. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
- "Fifth Third Ballpark History". West Michigan Whitecaps. Retrieved October 16, 2006.
- Bond, Gary (July 16, 2009). "'Man v. Food' Host Adam Richman Takes on Fifth Third Burger and Wins -- in 27 Minutes". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved August 11, 2009.
- "Travel Channel's Man v. Food's Host Adam Richman to Take on Famous Fifth Third Burger" (Press release). West Michigan Whitecaps. June 25, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
- "Laker Football to Play at Fifth Third Ballpark in 2007". Grand Valley State Athletics. March 14, 2007. Retrieved May 31, 2007.
- Wallner, Peter J. (January 4, 2014). "Fifth Third Ballpark Fire Damage: 'There Will Be Better Days, Just Not Today'". The Grand Rapids Press. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- "After offseason fire, Fifth Third Ballpark shines at Midwest League ASG". Ballpark Digest. June 20, 2014. Retrieved December 23, 2014.
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