Baseball stadium in Grand Rapids heavily damaged in fire

6:22 PM, Jan 3, 2014   |    comments
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Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids goes up in flames on Jan. 3, 2014 (WZZM)

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. -- A portion of the minor league baseball park just outside of Grand Rapids, Mich., collapsed after a massive fire broke out late Friday morning.

According to our sister station, WZZM, the east side of the stands at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich., caved in from the fire, which started in a suite on the first base side of the ballpark before spreading to the attic. About a third of the concourse was destroyed after a section of the roof collapsed.

PHOTOS | Minor league baseball stadium erupts in flames

The ballpark is the home field of the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

Crews had a difficult time fighting the fire because of the extreme cold. The temperature was 10 degrees when the fire began and firefighters struggled with freezing water lines. Plainfield Township Fire Chief, Dave Peterson said firefighters were only able to access two hydrants on the ballpark property and crews had to use hundreds of yards of hose to access outlying hydrants.

About 30 minutes after the fire broke out, firefighters were forced to retreat to a defensive position due to collapsing light poles and exterior walls. By 2 p.m., the bulk of the fire was contained, but smoke continued to billow from the structure, due to hot spots.

Denny Baxter, Managing Partner of the West Michigan Whitecaps told WZZM, "We will rebuild. We will play baseball this spring."

Opening day for the 2014 baseball season at the ballpark is scheduled for April 8, 2014. The team has called the ballpark home since it opened in 1994.

Last month, Midwest League officials unveiled ticket information for Fifth Third Ballpark to host the Midwest League All-Star Game in June, 2014.

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