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Published: Friday, 1/3/2014

Fire causes extensive damage to minor league ballpark near Grand Rapids


PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A fire destroyed multiple suites and caused part of the roof to collapse at a western Michigan minor league ballpark Friday.

The affected suites run from home plate down the first base line at 10,000-seat Fifth Third Ballpark, which is home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

A few workers were in ballpark offices when the fire started in one of the suites, and no injuries were reported, MLive.com said.

The response to the fire was slowed by a lack of fire hydrants near the park, said Plainfield Township Fire Chief David Peterson, who added that firefighters had to extend hoses to other hydrants, 1,500 feet away, which created low water pressure.

Crews from Plainfield and other Grand Rapids-area fire agencies, out in single-digit temperatures, took a defensive approach shortly after arriving about 11 a.m., reported WOOD-TV, which broadcast footage of thick, black smoke rising from the ballpark. The smoke was visible miles away.

“It was really kind of nasty,” Peterson said, describing the conditions firefighters faced.

He said the structure on the first-base side was “pretty much destroyed.”

Steve Reed has brought his family to many Whitecaps games.

He wondered what will happen this summer.

“This is our summertime, and it’s burning up right now” said Reed, with drove from Cedar Springs to see the fire after hearing about it through the media.

Fifth Third Ballpark, which opened in 1994 as Old Kent Park and changed to its current name in 2000, is scheduled to host the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game in June.

It also has hosted concerts and high school football games, and during the holidays, a Christmas light display is set up in the parking lot.

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