Even though Metro Bank Park currently looks better suited to host a Bassmasters tournament than a baseball game, Double-A Harrisburg general manager Randy Whitaker is optimistic that the field could be ready if the Senators advance past Richmond in the Eastern League Divisional Series.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee has inundated much of the East Coast this week, and Metro Bank Park—which sits on an island in the middle of the Susquahanna River was hit particularly hard. The stadium, in its second season since undergoing a $32-million renovation, took on roughly seven feet of water. The playing field appeared to be completely submerged and water looked to have spilled into the lower bowl of seating.
Like everyone else, Whitaker could look only at the aerial photos of the ballpark. He likely won’t be allowed back on to the island until Sunday at the earliest, when he’ll have a better idea if the ballpark can dry out in time to host more baseball this season. But the fourth-year general manager sounded remarkably positive as he drove south to Richmond, which will host the entire best-of-five series beginning tonight.
“You can prepare as much as you can and then wait until it’s over and see what’s left,” Whitaker said. “The stadium was built to flood.”
And in fact it has already flooded twice this year—once before the season and again in the spring, when a couple feet of water covered the infield—but nothing quite like this.
“I think we got about seven feet (of water) on the field,” Whitaker said. “It got to, or above, our first level of billboards (on the outfield wall). And it probably would have gotten into some seating areas.”
That level of water, Whitaker believes, means that the river actually flowed through the ballpark rather than just come up through the saturated ground. As a result, more debris is likely to have littered, and possibly damaged, the ballpark. But if damage is minimal, and with such a good drainage system in place, Whitaker believes hosting the league championship series is a possibility if the team advances.
The Senators staff spent the previous 48 hours clearing out the lower level of the ballpark, which sits in the flood zone, and moving it into storage that sits above the 100-year flood level. The players cleared all their belongings out of the clubhouse and moved their vehicles off the island. “It’s almost like they were leaving for the year,” Whitaker said.
The team cleared any concession equipment and electronics off the concourse or into the bathrooms, which sit behind water-tight doors. “We call them our submarine doors,” Whitaker said.
“I feel sorry for our fans because they have earned a playoff and now are not able to see it,” Whitaker said. “The amount of work that will go into cleaning this up is a shame. It will be a big effort to get it back in order so we can start playing again.”
It had been a banner year for the Senators, whose average attendance has increased roughly 18 percent (4,221 this year) in two seasons at the new facility.
“We’re not dead yet,” Whitaker said. “We still hope to play the championship here. It would have been great to have the playoffs here, but right now we’re more concerned about the fans and what they’re going through . . . There is nothing they could have done to prepare for this level of flooding.”