The 2014 fire that destroyed approximately 40 percent of Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, happened one year ago today.
It still amazes me how quickly the Whitecaps were able to rebuild their stadium. The damaged area of the ballpark went from looking like this a week after the fire …
… to this before Opening Day:
As if the impressive rebuild wasn’t enough, the Whitecaps won their first post-fire home game, too!
The Whitecaps went on to host the Midwest League All-Star Game as planned. In addition to the host site being ready only five months after a major fire, the game also ended up being memorable for the play on the field, as the Western Division took a no-hitter into the 8th inning in its 7-0 win over the Eastern Division.
The Whitecaps made it to the playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round by the Fort Wayne TinCaps. The perfect storyline in a triumphant comeback year for the Whitecaps seemed to end there.
Except it didn’t completely end there. The Whitecaps organization went on to win three awards at baseball’s 2014 Winter Meetings, including a Minor League Baseball Presidential Citation presented by MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Conner. The award recognizes exemplary service on behalf of Minor League Baseball and, in this case, was given for the team’s successful efforts in getting its ballpark rebuilt by the time the season started.
Some changes continue to be made at the ballpark in wake of last year’s fire. The most significant one involves the team’s administrative offices. The old front offices were ruined by the fire, so a new administrative building is being constructed outside the stadium this offseason. It is expected to be done in April.