Explore West Michigan's LMCU Ballpark
Welcome to LMCU Park, an evolving Grand Rapids-adjacent gem. While there are other Minor League teams in the state of Michigan, the hometown Whitecaps are the only one to enjoy an affiliation with the Detroit Tigers.
West Michigan Whitecaps (Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers since 1997)
League: Midwest League
Ballpark: LMCU Ballpark (opened 1994, as Old Kent Park)
Championships: 1996, 1998, 2004, 2006-'07, 2015
Notable alumni: Fernando Rodney, Cameron Maybin, Ben Grieve, Francisco Cordero, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Inge
The Whitecaps are based in Comstock Park, Mich., located to the northwest of Grand Rapids proper. Grand Rapids, the second-most populous city in Michigan, was a hotbed of professional baseball beginning in the 1870s and continuing into the 1950s. Along the way the region played host to a flurry of often colorfully named teams, from the Gold Bugs to the Ganzeloids to the Billibobs to the Joshers. The Grand Rapids Chicks of the All-American Girls Professional League operated from 1945-'54; after that the region went 40 seasons without a professional baseball team.
Enter the Whitecaps, who arrived in 1994 following a decade-long effort to bring a team to the area. The Whitecaps moniker, chosen in the "wake" of a Name the Team contest, references the oft-turbulent conditions of the nearby Grand River (as well as Lake Michigan, located to the east). The Whitecaps, who came into being after relocating from Madison, Wisc., were an affiliate of the Oakland A's for the first three seasons of their existence. Since 1997 they've been affiliated with Detroit, a natural fit in a region filled with Tigers fans.
The Whitecaps have competed out of the Midwest League since their 1994 inception. Prior to the 2021 season, as part of a larger reorganization of Minor League Baseball, the Midwest League was elevated from Class A to High-A.
Ballpark Location (via Google Maps)
West Michigan Whitecaps Schedule
West Michigan Whitecaps Roster
4500 W. River Drive NE
Comstock Park, MI 49321
Capacity: 9,000 (approximate)
Dimensions: left field, 317 feet; center field, 402 feet; right field, 327 feet
Per the Whitecaps, the 1994 opening of LMCU Park was "the culmination of a 10-year labor of love for local businessmen Lew Chamberlin and Dennis Baxter." This persistent pair, along with 26 limited partners, privately financed the construction of the facility. It was originally called Old Kent Park, and this was followed by a 20-year period (2001-'21) in which it was known as Fifth Third Ballpark. The current LMCU moniker is the result of a naming rights deal with the Lake Michigan Credit Union.
The Whitecaps were a success at the gate right out of the gate, establishing a new Class A attendance record in each of their first three seasons. Capacity was greatly expanded in 1996, from 5,701 to 10,700. The first-base side of the ballpark was largely destroyed by a fire in January 2014, a conflagration that started in one of the suites. The team rebuilt the ballpark in time for Opening Day, adding several new elements to the fan experience in the process.
More changes are coming. The ballpark is currently undergoing an extensive multi-phase "modernization project," with the first phase scheduled to be completed by Opening Day 2024. The second phase, taking place in 2025 and beyond, includes a "reimagined front entrance," a beach-themed beautification of the 45-acre property on which the ballpark sits and a new 360-degree concourse.
LMCU Park is located just off state route 131, which intersects with I-96 south of the ballpark. The Grand River runs just to the east, near the first-base side. Parking, all of it on dry land, is plentiful. The seating bowl, bisected by a wide aisle, gives way to lawn seating in the right and left-field corners. Group areas are found throughout the ballpark, most prominently in right field. There, a covered party deck gives way to the indoor Pepsi Club, which is topped with a section of rooftop seating.
LMCU's second level, comprised largely of suites, provides cover for a wide concourse that runs behind and above the seating bowl. Fans can wander the concourse, colorfully decorated and ringed with concession stands, while still keeping an eye on the game.
No matter what the score, the gameday environment is a lively one. The Whitecaps have developed a reputation for creative promotions, from in-game corgi races to Tigers-themed giveaways. Most notably, they set the template for the "Star Wars" promotions that became standard throughout the Minor Leagues. Theme jerseys and costumed characters from the local chapter of the 501st Legion are always part of that experience.
The Whitecaps have long been culinary innovators, regularly introducing creative new items into their concessions line-up alongside the usual standbys. Their annual Fan Food Submission is a long-running tradition, and has resulted in memorable dishes such as The Baco (a taco with a bacon shell), Mt. Wing-suvious (an onion ring tower filled with cheese and Buffalo chicken toppings) and the more self-explanatory Gyro Nachos. The Whitecaps alter their menu from season to season, so spend some time wandering the concourse if you're in search of something out of the ordinary. Surprises are likely to be in store.
No mention of Whitecaps concessions would be complete without a mention of the gargantuan (and now discontinued) Fifth Third Burger, which was on the menu from 2009-'18. It consisted of five 1/3lb. hamburger patties, five slices of American cheese, a cup of chili and generous doses of Fritos, salsa, sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes on a 1-pound bun. The Fifth Third Burger was a viral sensation when it was first announced, and the Whitecaps went on to sell more than 12,000 of them.
While other locales may disagree, Grand Rapids lays claim to the title of Beer City (there are over 80 breweries in the region). The Whitecaps have embraced this claim to fame, offering craft beers at the ballpark while occasionally suiting up as the Beer City Bung Hammers.
The Whitecaps' mascot triumvirate starts with Crash the River Rascal (a previously unknown, beaver-like species). His female companion Roxy joined the scene in 2014, effectively doubling the ballpark's River Rascal population. This furry duo often pals around with Franky the Swimming Pig, whose propensity for water-based activities is exemplified by the inner tube he wears around his waist. Franky makes a splash wherever he goes.
If you're looking to maximize the day's family fun quotient, stop by AJ's Family Fun Center prior to a game. It's located just up the road from LMCU Park, and has go-karts, bumper boats, batting cages, mini-golf, arcade games and more. For a more aquatic endeavor, consider fishing, kayaking or canoeing the Grand River. Fish Ladder Park, in downtown Grand Rapids, is described as a "functional piece of architectural artwork" that facilities the arduous Grand River migration journeys of various species of fish.
Speaking of downtown Grand Rapids, it's home to six museums. The Grand Rapids Public Museum, featuring science, art and history-themed exhibits, is like visiting several museums in one. Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, grew up in Grand Rapids. His boyhood home is located in what is now known as the Heritage Hill Historic District, while the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum is located downtown. Make sure to check out the Watergate burglary tools on display.
Food and Drink
LMCU Ballpark is located on West River Drive, and you don't have to deviate from this thoroughfare to find nearby food and drink options. These include Vitale's (Italian restaurant and sports bar), Bier Distillery (whisky, beer, food), Shots on the River (sports bar), Archival Brewing (microbrews and a wide-ranging menu). The most unique close-to-the-ballpark option has to be The Pack, a bar, restaurant and indoor dog park.
There are, as one would expect, plenty of places to eat and drink within Grand Rapids proper. One of the most unique destinations is Max's South Seas Hideaway, a multi-level tiki bar.
And, lest we forget, Grand Rapids is "Beer City." Breweries abound, as do cideries, distilleries and meaderies. Whitecaps broadcaster Dan Hasty recommends Founders, Grand Rapids Brewing Company and, above all, The Mitten. This establishment is adorned with memorabilia related to the Detroit Tigers and their former home of Tiger Stadium.
If ballpark proximity is your number one consideration, note that there are several hotels within a 2-3 minute drive of LMCU Ballpark. There are, of course, many more in Grand Rapids proper.
The West Michigan Whitecaps are, not surprisingly, Michigan's western-most Minor League team. Head northeast to see the Midland, Mich.-based Great Lakes Loons, or southeast to see the Lansing Lugnuts. From Lansing, keep heading east to see the Whitecaps' parent club, the Detroit Tigers. Other comparatively nearby options include the South Bend Cubs and the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens.
The Road to Detroit
The Tigers' system begins at their Spring Training facility in Florida. From there, it's off to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio before making it to the ultimate goal of Detroit.
Single-A: Lakeland Flying Tigers
High-A: West Michigan Whitecaps
Double-A: Erie SeaWolves
Triple-A: Toledo Mud Hens