A massive fire that broke out at around 11 a.m. EST Friday did extensive damage to the home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, according to various news reports.
WZZM-TV reported that the fire destroyed the right field concourse and collapsed 11 upper deck suites.
WZZM, citing the Plainfield Fire Dept., reported that the fire started in a luxury suite and spread into an attic in the building of the 10,071-seat park in Plainfield Township, Mich., home to the Tigers low Class A affiliate. The Plainfield Fire Dept. told the TV station that it was too soon to cite a cause for the fire.
Whitecaps director of marketing and media Mickey Graham told milb.com that the fire was “significant. We were in the office (when the fire broke out)," Graham said. “We don’t know the cause, but everyone was evacuated from the stadium.”
Fifth Third Ballpark opened in 1994 as Old Kent Park and changed to its current name in 2000. It is scheduled to host the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game on June 17.
Despite the damage, Whitecaps co-managing partner Denny Baxter remained optimistic.
“We will play baseball April 8th,” Baxter told WZZM. “We can reopen without everything being rebuilt.” He said the playing field was not damaged.
About 30 employees were in the park at the time of the fire, but no injuries were reported, Graham told milb.com.
The Whitecaps have consistently been one of the better drawing teams in the Midwest League, ranking fourth in overall attendance last year at 377,948—up from 362,554 in 2012.