Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, is on fire and parts of the stadium along the first-base line appear to have collapsed. The fire began about 10:50 a.m. Friday, WOODTV reports. Flames could quickly be seen coming from the suites near the press box and apparently spreading down the first base line, and live video from Highway 131 initially showed a large amount of black smoke coming from the ballpark, which is located in Comstock Park (or technically, Plainfield Township), just north of Grand Rapids.
A fire department spokesman told WOODTV the fire started in one of the suites, got into the attic and quickly spread from there and weakened the roof. Not helping matters: the sprinkler system apparently failed, or was unable to slow the fire, according to the spokesman. WOODTV is reporting water pressure problems caused a slow start to fighting the fire, though they appear to have been since fixed and black smoke has given way to white as the fire as fought back.
An on-site reporter's devastating quote: "It almost looks like the fire is out because there's nothing left to burn."
The third-base line appears to have come through the fire intact, and team management has already told the media the Whitecaps will rebuild and still plan to play there for the home opener on April 8.
The Tigers' statement: "The Whitecaps management immediately made our organization aware of their situation today at Fifth Third Ballpark, and will provide further details as they develop. We certainly hope for the best for all parties involved. The Tigers look forward to attending the Whitecaps annual baseball banquet later this month as part of the annual Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan."
The ballpark opened in 1994.
Here are a few photos shared so far on Twitter:
Here's another shot from WOODTV pic.twitter.com/giEdprQNRE— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) January 3, 2014
Hardly anything left of the first base side at 5/3 Park. Looking very skeletal. pic.twitter.com/Ds6AcRWXJd— HookSlide (@HookSlideBYB) January 3, 2014
This is a tough day for all Whitecaps fans. pic.twitter.com/TBxJCyjOhM— John Gonzalez (@MichiganGonzo) January 3, 2014
This looks very much not good. Unreal. My second home in the summer ... 15 minutes up the road from me ... wow. pic.twitter.com/XQFt6gMvFy— HookSlide (@HookSlideBYB) January 3, 2014
Situation bad to worse at Fifth Third Ball Park. pic.twitter.com/rAge5xt4Hh— John Gonzalez (@MichiganGonzo) January 3, 2014
However there is some good news:
According to reports on @WZZM13, everyone was evacuated safely from the building. That’s most important.— Whitecaps Fans (@Whitecaps) January 3, 2014