Welcome home: Columbia Fireflies arrive at new stadium
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The Columbia Fireflies opened the gates of Spirit Communications Park on Sunday to give fans their first look at Columbia’s new minor league baseball team. It was the first time many, including the team’s players, had set foot in the new stadium, located in the Columbia Commons development off Bull Street.
Players arrived at the stadium just before noon and were given a tour of their new home. It will be more than a week before the team meets its first opponent at the new stadium. The Fireflies will have plenty of practice before then, however, as they’ll hit the road Thursday to take on the Charleston RiverDogs in the season opener.
After four games in Charleston and three more in Rome, Ga., the team’s first game at Spirit Communications Park is scheduled for April 14, when the Fireflies will host the Greenville Drive. The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
Shortly after the team concluded its stadium tour Sunday, fans began streaming into the ballpark for a “Fan Fest” welcoming event.
The first stop for many fans was the concession stand, where stadium employees were handing out free sodas, chips and hot dogs. Others filed into the stadium’s Mason Jar to stock up on Fireflies hats, shirts and other apparel to show their team spirit.
Tom Keckeisen and his wife, Katherine, who already were decked out in Fireflies gear, stopped by the Mason Jar team store to grab a few more items. The Keckeisens said they’re excited for the start of the season and eager to check out the team’s new home.
“We’ve been here once before when it was earlier in construction, so I’d like to see how it’s finished off,” Tom Keckeisen said.
The season ticket holders also wanted to scope out their seats, Katherine Keckeisen said.
Tom Keckeisen said he expects the new team to be a boon for Columbia. “I think it’s great for downtown,” he said. “I think it’ll be good for the economy and the city.”
“And the fans!” his wife added.
Other fans present at Sunday’s event agreed.
Melvin Jamison said he’s glad to have an affordable, family-friendly activity in downtown Columbia.
“And when family friends come to visit,” he said, “this is something you can bring them out to and be proud of.”