PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A January fire that destroyed part of a minor league ballpark in western Michigan is being used as an opportunity to make improvements at the 21-year-old stadium.
The owners of the West Michigan Whitecaps said that over this year and next, Fifth Third Ballpark will get a larger, relocated souvenir shop, a new administrative building with rooftop grill deck and an expanded home clubhouse, The Grand Rapids Press reported (http://bit.ly/1dsOSjB ).
"If there is one silver lining from the unfortunate occurrence of the fire, it is that it allowed us to look at these projects now, at least the ones with the highest priority, and accomplish them with a lot more efficiency if we had taken them on by themselves later on," co-owner Lew Chamberlin said.
The home opener for the single-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers is April 8. The team said that the stadium's first base side, which sustained heavy fire damage, will be open. That area includes a main concession stand and restroom. There also will be portable concession stands.
Fire investigators have said that a trash container placed next to a space heater caused the fire. Nine suites and the home clubhouse were destroyed and part of the roof collapsed. Smoke damage required extensive interior work to other suites. No one was injured.
Officials previously said the ballpark is to get more fire hydrants and hookups for hoses.
Chamberlin, who co-owns the team with Denny Baxter, didn't give a cost for the projects. Insurance settlements have not been completed, but Chamberlin said "the timing was right," by avoiding demolition costs already essentially accomplished by the fire.
"That's actually a significant cost we would otherwise incur," he said. "It was a certainly a big consideration."
Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids