COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WZZM) -- Spring-training for the Michigan Whitecaps is underway and their season-opener is just one month from Tuesday.
This winter's weather hasn't been ideal for re-building the Fifth Third Ballpark but progress took on a whole new meaning around the ballpark over the last few days. That's thanks to a blue sky, and finally, temperatures that feel more like spring.
Walk through the hallway of the new suites above first-base at Fifth Third Ballpark, and you'll see what a difference 46 degrees can make compared to, say 10.
"I was here Friday morning and all these studs weren't here, and I came back Friday afternoon and there was a hallway," said Whitecaps media relations director Mickey Graham. The area was damaged by smoke during the massive fire January 3 and had to be gutted.
Fred Gilbert was on the field that day, already sketching a re-building plan. Now the job site superintendent for Wolverine Building Group isn't even taking time to stop and take in the sunny day.
"Does it put a smile on your face to see a blue sky?" WZZM 13 asked. "I don't know about that, maybe," said Gilbert.
Mother Nature hasn't been kind to Gilbert. "It costs a lot of money to heat everything and it just slows stuff down. It's hard to get people going when it's 18 degrees below zero," he said.
Gilbert says they're on schedule but he can't waste a precious day four weeks from the opening game. "The schedule is really cramped and there's 100 guys from 20 different companies that all have to have answers for something," he said. "Normally you'd have time to look stuff up. But now you have to make decisions."
Dozens of seats need to be replaced because of smoke damage, and the broadcasters booths' need to be ready. Graham assures fans their needs will be met too. "And (they'll) also be very functional so the restrooms will be open, the concession stands," he said.
"It's definitely going to be an emotional opening day. Probably going to be the biggest opening day since the team came here in '94," said Graham.
If not completely finished, fans can rest assured Gilbert will at least have their needs met. "To have a safe place for them," he said.
One thing he doesn't have control over, is the field. Graham says groundskeepers have given up on the snowplow and are figuring out another way to get the snow off to get the grass ready.
You can purchase tickets by visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com, calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131, by or in person at the temporary administrative offices located at 5716 West River Drive NE in Belmont, at the White Pine Trail overpass (open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.