9 moments to remember in Fifth Third Field’s history

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Opening day for the Dragons is almost here. Grounds crews are prepping Fifth Third Field for a full house.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It was 20 years this month that Dayton city commissioners voted to finance a $23 million downtown baseball stadium.

"I've said for five years what we're missing in this town is family entertainment," said then-City Commissioner Tony Capizzi in 1997.

The longtime advocate for minor league baseball said the game would draw people downtown, boost the city's image and spur riverfront development.

Fifth Third Field is built on the site of a former General Motors plant at Patterson Boulevard between East Monument Avenue and East First Street.
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Fifth Third Field is built on the site of a former General Motors plant at Patterson Boulevard between East Monument Avenue and East First Street.

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

The idea, which seemed like a risky venture to some two decades ago, was one of the sparks that led to today’s fiery downtown revitalization.

The Dayton Dragons played their first game at Fifth Third Field in 2000. Here are nine moments to remember:

1. Revitalization. The stadium is built on the site of a former General Motors plant at Patterson Boulevard between East Monument Avenue and East First Street.

It’s been 20 years since city commissioners voted to finance a $23 million baseball stadium in downtown Dayton.
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It’s been 20 years since city commissioners voted to finance a $23 million baseball stadium in downtown Dayton.

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

2. Banking on a game. Fifth Third Bank paid a reported $4.3 million for the naming rights of the $23.1 million stadium.

3. Nice digs. The architect who designed Fifth Third Field, Jonathan Cole, told the Dayton Daily News in 2000: "This is a unique park. It's a Triple-A facility for a Single-A team. There's not another Single-A ballpark in the nation with a second tier like this. The walk around the concourse goes all the way around the park, so you can experience a game from several different vantage points."

Seats are installed in the new Fifth Third Stadium in 2000.
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Seats are installed in the new Fifth Third Stadium in 2000.

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

4. Starting on the road. Construction delays postponed the opening of the new stadium. The Dragons spent 20 days of their inaugural season on the road playing 16 games. Four of those games had weather-related postponements which lead to doubleheaders.

5. Winning at home. Fifth Third Field officially opened on April 27, 2000. The first home opener was played against the Cedar Rapids Kernels. The Dragons beat the Kernels 4-3.

Construction of the new downtown Dayton baseball stadium was a huge draw.
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Construction of the new downtown Dayton baseball stadium was a huge draw.

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

6. He was number one. John Schleppi of Kettering was the first of 8,833 fans through the gate at the packed, standing-room-only first game.

7. Cheers and jeers. The first standing ovation at a Dragons game was for Johnny Bench, who was introduced to the crowd before the game. The first person booed was then-Mayor Mike Turner, who threw a hard slider into the dirt that hopped past Bench.

Fifth Third Field officially opened April 27, 2000. The first home opener was played against the Cedar Rapids Kernels.
Caption
Fifth Third Field officially opened April 27, 2000. The first home opener was played against the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

Credit: Aimee Obidzinski

8. The very firsts. The Dragons' Jim Manias threw the first official pitch of the game. Casey Bookout collected the first hit, B.J. Hawes stole the first base (second base in the third inning) and Austin Kearns scored the first run.

9. Record breaking. In 2011, the Dragons broke the all-time record for consecutive home game sellouts at their 815th game.