Columbia’s Spirit Communications Park named ‘Ballpark of the Year’
Ballpark Digest honored Spirit Communications Park on Tuesday as its 2016 Ballpark of the Year. The home of the Columbia Fireflies, which is the New York Mets’ South Atlantic League affiliate, was selected as the top park across Minor League Baseball nationally for 2016. Representatives from Ballpark Digest will present the award to the Fireflies and representatives from the city of Columbia on Aug. 11 during their home game against the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
To commemorate this honor for Spirit Communications Park, the Fireflies will host a special pre-game ceremony and will distribute commemorative posters to the first 2,500 fans in attendance at the Aug. 11 ballgame.
“Spirit Communications Park is not only our Ballpark of the Year, it’s also one of the best ballparks opened in the last decade,” said Ballpark Digest Publisher Kevin Reichard. “The ballpark is the centerpiece of serious economic development in Columbia, and an already-great fan experience should only improve once the Bull Street development advances.”
Crews broke ground on Spirit Communications Park on Jan. 6, 2015, and the multi-use park hosted its first baseball game April 14, 2016, in front of a sellout crowd of 9,077. To date, 181,673 fans have passed through the park’s gates for Fireflies games, and more than 10,000 people have attended community and private events at the ballpark.
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition from one of the leading publications in our industry, Ballpark Digest,” said Jason Freier, managing owner of the Fireflies. “Spirit Communications Park is a beautiful facility, provides an experience that is second to none and has become a true gathering place for the citizens of Columbia. We look forward to decades of affordable family friendly entertainment and building on the relationship with our fans and our community.”
Spirit Communications Park is home to more than just baseball. Since its opening, the facility has hosted church and community gatherings, business meetings, charity events and festivals. On Oct. 22, Spirit Communications Park will host the Palmetto Health Foundation’s Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K and 10K, which is expected to have upwards of 10,000 participants. It also will play host to numerous concerts, high school and college baseball, football and soccer games.
“We are honored that Spirit Communications Park was selected for this tremendous distinction,” said team President John Katz. “We’re delighted to share this award with our wonderful community who make the atmosphere at Spirit Communications Park one of the best in all of Minor League Baseball. With the imminent growth of the Commons at BullStreet, the ballpark will continue to be a true entertainment destination for our community and for out-of-town guests.”
With the recent announcement of a 10-screen luxury cinema, the Fireflies will have new neighbors in the not-too-distant future. A host of retail, residential and commercial space will also surround the venue in the years to come.
“This is classic, family-friendly entertainment,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said about the park. “To see the people of Columbia respond so overwhelmingly to this is phenomenal for our great city. I’ve seen firsthand the sheer delight on people’s faces as they enter the park and realize this is their stadium, this is their park.”