Chronological Tour: Stop 138

The Park Formerly Known as Old Kent

Home plate entrance to Fifth Third Ballpark, Aug-2015.

A shot from down the right-field line shows the considerable seating capacity, which gets utilized most every night.

Looking out from directly behind the plate at the field, including premium outfield areas.

Quick Facts: Rating: 5 baseballs
Old Kent Park isnít old. The name came from a bank based in Kent County, where the park is located. Itís a 1994 structure that they keep expanding to meet the ever-increasing demand for tickets to quality baseball in west-central Michigan.

Aside from the Detroit Tigers, the state of Michigan had gone without professional baseball until the Oakland Athletics decided to put their Midwest League team near Grand Rapids. The management team went all-out to build a fan-friendly, accommodating stadium which combined eye candy with superb functionality.

The first season they were there, the West Michigan Whitecaps sold out nearly every game. So they added seating, and the demand kept growing. For 1998, the Whitecaps, now a Detroit Tigers farm club, added a bleacher area in the outfield that doesnít get filled up every game, but is packed for big promotional nights, such as fireworks shows. (Site visitor Miguel Vega noted in 2008 that the outfield bleachers have been replaced by an enclosed restaurant/bar facility with an outdoor roof deck, as well as other improvements.)

With an excellent combination of good baseball (five league championships) and a park to match, the Whitecaps led the Midwest League in attendance in 1998. There really isnít anything to dislike about this facility, except possibly that the name is changing. Fifth Third, an Ohio bank, bought Old Kent in 2001 and said they were putting their own name on the park. Adding Toledoís new park to the one in Dayton (and now the one in Geneva, Ill., too) will make for some mighty confusion among minor-league fans in the Midwest.

Whatever the park is called this week, it should be a definite stop on any Midwest League tour. Itís even worth a side trip from a trip to a game in Detroit or Chicago if time allows and the Whitecaps are home.

A fire blew through the first-base suite areas at the ballpark Friday 3-Jan-2014, causing that section of the park to be rebuilt in advance of the Midwest League All-Star Game set for June.

Game # Date League Level Result
327 Sun 16-Aug-1998 Midwest A WEST MICHIGAN 5, South Bend 4
1416 Wed 26-Aug-1998 Midwest A WEST MICHIGAN 4, South Bend 3
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This page updated 29-Aug-2015