Fifth Third Ballpark Fire [Video Link]
UPDATE (2:50pm): In a news conference held Friday afternoon, West Michigan Whitecaps Managing Partner Denny Baxter shed some light on the fire and on the future of Fifth Third Ballpark and the West Michigan Whitecaps. He said of the future: "If we rebuild it, they will come once again." Baxter assured the community that the Whitecaps will be playing baseball come April 8th of this year (opening day). He got choked up several times during the news conference, and expressed that the Whitecaps organization is "more than a business, it's a community member."
Baxter assured all that the Whitecaps will play as scheduled on opening day (April 8), whether the ballpark's rebuild is completed or not.
His message to Whitecaps' fans,
April 8th - Opening Day - plan to be here. We will be.
Baxter went on to thank West Michiganders for their continued support of the Whitecaps organization.
Initial reports are that the suite and concourse levels of the ballpark along the first baseline (the east side of the park) are destroyed, but the seating underneath (where you and I would sit for a game) seems to be intact. Baxter also stated that the Whitecaps' clubhouse is likely destroyed, along with some storage rooms underneath the ballpark.
UPDATE (12:50 p.m.): The smoke coming from Fifth Third Ballpark has greatly diminished and is now appearing white instead of the thick black smoke that was observed earlier. Fire department officials have said that they have contained the fire, but they are still working to put out hotspots and control smoldering. It is being reported that the entire first base side of the grandstands and suites has been destroyed, but the third base side is seemingly untouched.
Team officials are saying that the will rebuild, and that there will be baseball at the ballpark in 2014. Fifth Third Ballpark is slated to host the 2014 Midwest League All-Star Classic.
UPDATE (12:10 p.m.): The Kent County emergency manager is urging everyone to stay away from the area of Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park.
UPDATE (11:40am): We're receiving reports that the east side of the stands at the ballpark have caved in.
Several fire crews are responding to a fire at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park.
Smoke can be seen coming from the ballpark. According to our news partners at WZZM-13, crews believe the fire may be coming from one of the suites.
Fifth Third Ballpark is the home of the Midwest League's West Michigan Whitecaps Class A professional baseball team. It is slated to host the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game on June 17, 2014.