With the Columbia Fireflies set to wrap up their inaugural minor league baseball season on Labor Day, Spirit Communications Park won’t stay idle for long.
The stadium will host at least three high school football games over the next seven weeks, beginning with Ridge View taking on Fairfield Central on Sept. 9.
The other two games confirmed are A.C. Flora against Chapin on Oct. 7, and Eau Claire facing Gray Collegiate on Oct. 20. The games will be part of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group Orthopedics Pigskin in the Park Series.
“First time a high school team gets to play in a minor league ballpark, it is a big deal,” Ridge View coach Perry Parks said. “We have no place to call home. We will rent a stadium, borrow one, so we are excited. Anything to highlight our kids and give them a great atmosphere, we are all for.”
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Ridge View, which will host its first on-campus game this week, usually plays its games off-campus at Richland 2 District Stadium. A.C. Flora, Eau Claire and Gray Collegiate all play their games at off-campus stadiums.
This will be the second high school sporting event hosted at the stadium. A.C. Flora’s baseball team played River Bluff in the spring.
The new park also will play host to the South Carolina Baseball Coaches all-star games in May.
“It will be a different experience, playing in the professional atmosphere, and there is a buzz about it,” A.C. Flora coach Reggie Shaw said. “Hopefully, we get a packed house and it will be a treat for our kids to play there.”
The teams will be getting to use the stadium rent free because of the sponsorship with Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group. Home teams will get a majority of the ticket sales with the rest going to the city of Columbia as part of the Fireflies’ agreement with them. Columbia Fireflies team president John Katz will be covering most of the normal operating costs for the schools, including the cost of officials, the majority of security costs and half of the cost to clean the stadium after each game.
The football field will run parallel to the first-base line. When the stadium was built, the right-field line was purposely built 330 feet so it would accommodate a football or soccer game.
“We designed Spirit Communications Park as a multi-sport venue, and we’re excited to showcase high school football in 2016,” Katz said. “The Fireflies are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide these student-athletes with a first-class game day experience as they take the field this fall.”
The Fireflies have a limited number of available dates for Midlands high schools to relocate 2016 games to Spirit Communications Park. Interested athletic directors may contact Jaime Tamsin at 803-726-4487, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sprit Communications Park was voted by Ballpark Digest as its Ballpark of the Year, and will host the South Atlantic League All-Star game next year. The Fireflies have drawn 238,864 fans going into the final seven-game homestand of the season.
the big leagues
Spirit Communications Park will host at least three high school football games this season. The games confirmed so far:
Sept. 9: Ridge View vs. Fairfield Central
Oct. 7: A.C. Flora vs. Chapin
Oct. 20: Eau Claire vs. Gray Collegiate