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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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New field Toledo’s new gem

For nearly a half-century, the Toledo Mud Hens didn’t play in Toledo, and Toledo felt the effects.

While the class AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers played in Ned Skeldon Stadium in suburban Maumee, Toledo lacked a universal attraction to bring people downtown during the summer. With no large sources of income to the area, downtown Toledo started becoming a poster child for urban decay. Toledo hopes to start reversing that trend today as the Mud Hens return downtown with the opening of Fifth Third Field.

“The Mud Hens haven’t been in Toledo since the 1960s, so it’s been a long time,” said Jason Griffin, Mud Hens director of public and media relations. “This will bring money to downtown with the opening of restaurants and things. We’ve already had a couple open.”

The City of Toledo Downtown Development Department estimates the ballpark has directly or indirectly generated more than $45 million in new investment in downtown Toledo since plans to build it were announced in 1999.

Ground was broken for the ballpark in October 2000. The stadium was financed through a 50-50 private-public partnership that required no tax increase in Lucas County. Half the stadium’s cost was paid for by the sale of luxury suites, club seat licenses, a naming right purchased by Fifth Third Bank, tickets and sponsorships.

The ballpark is a spacious single-deck affair, with a panoramic view of the Toledo skyline beyond the outfield wall. It incorporates features of numerous other parks into its 8,943-seat structure. The 18-foot-high left field wall is similar to Fenway Park, the 8-foot-high center field wall houses a recess reminiscent of the old Polo Grounds in New York, and the 18-foot-high right field wall conforms to the adjacent buildings along St. Clair Street. However, the park’s most unique feature is the warehouse incorporated into the park like Camden Yards.

The visitors’ clubhouse doesn’t bring to mind the threadbare minor league accommodations from the movie “Bull Durham.” Indeed, the plush environment would probably make Crash Davis cry tears of joy. The clubhouse has a full-sized kitchen and a living-room sized lounge area, fully carpeted. The locker area has more than enough elbow room for 30 players and coaches, and the shower facilities are equipped with non-slip flooring.

In general, fans were very impressed with the Mud Hens’ new digs.

“It’s fantastic, a lot better than I expected,” said Sigmund Humanski, a season-ticket holder from Toledo. “I don’t think people will miss Ned Skeldon after a few games here. It is something the city of Toledo should be proud of.”

If there is one drawback to the new ballpark, it is the parking situation. Right now, there is only one parking garage near the park, and one parking lot across the street. Also, the shoddy appearance of the street pavement in the area could take away from the aesthetic pleasure of the park.

The Mud Hens take the field for the first time today against the Norfolk Tides at 1 p.m. Prior to the game, the Goodyear Blimp and the Ohio National Guard will do a fly over. The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by actor and Toledo native Jamie Farr, of M*A*S*H fame, and Ohio Governor Bob Taft is expected to be in attendance. The game is sold out, but tickets are still available for games later in the week. The Mud Hens have a six-game homestand against Norfolk and Richmond through Sunday.

To get to Fifth Third Field from Bowling Green, take I-75 north to exit 201-B (downtown). Make a left on Erie Street and a right on Washington. The ballpark is on the left.

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