TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The very first pitch at Fifth Third Field took place back in 2002. Now, about 15 years later, a team of a different sort have stepped up to the plate to make downtown Toledo their home.
Thursday streets in downtown Toledo are expected to see close to 30,000 people for the Mud Hens home-opener.
There will be a unique buzz around town, one that has only grown since the field moved downtown in 2002.
"Fifth Third Field is really regarded in the top tier of minor league baseball teams," Erik Ibsen, executive vice president and general manager of the Toledo Mud Hens. "We get outstanding feedback on the facility itself from fans in the area, from people that visit, from those out of town, from the players that play here. And it's really been a perfect script in the 15 years that we've actually been downtown."
Since the groundbreaking at the field, downtown Toledo has seen more than 70 restaurants move in, business move their headquarters, luxury hotels come to town and more.
"We've kind of changed the dynamics recently," said Cindy Kerr, executive director of Downtown Toledo improvement district. "We have so much residential down here too and of course we are bringing more businesses down here welcoming them so you start to see kind of that rising tide and a lot of it gets started when Fifth Third Field came."
The resurgence of downtown is something community members notice. While some are excited about what's being done others are hopeful for more change in the future.
"I feel like we should do a little more for the art community," said Jesse Perryman, a Toledo resident. "It should be like a big rebirth here in a few years I feel like."
"Toledo is really turning that corner and they are making some good changes," said fan Michael Melnyk. "I am looking forward to it."
Officials for the Mud Hens say despite their 15 years at Fifth Third, they will continue to find ways to keep the stadium exciting and changing in the future.