Fifth Third Field was once Dayton’s field of dreams

Dayton Dragons

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – On the eve of their 20th season it’s now hard to imagine Dayton without the Dragons. But for a long time, it looked like we would never get a team. 

That all changed when an unexpected window of opportunity suddenly opened and summers in Dayton have never been the same.

In many ways, the history of the Dayton Dragons dates back to 1990.  Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi was a Dayton City Commissioner and he began to float the idea of bringing baseball to downtown Dayton.

Capizzi said, “I just realized there was nothing like this in the summertime too many people were going to Cincinnati to watch baseball games and it’s such a social-economic way to bring people together and it’s great isn’t it?”

It is now but back then there was one major roadblock and her name was Marge Schott. 

For many years, the irascible Reds owner refused to grant Dayton a minor league franchise because she thought it would hurt her attendance in Cincinnati. 

But in the late ’90s, years of controversial comments and behavior finally caught up with Marge and she was banned from managing the team.  Dayton leaders sensed an opportunity.

Representative Mike Turner said, “There was a short window when Marge Schott the owner of the Reds at the time had to step aside we had an interim almost receivership ownership trustees if you will who were in charge of the Reds and we were able to negotiate at that time a franchise for Dayton.  I don’t think if Marge Schott had stepped aside we would have ever been able to get the Dayton Dragons to Dayton.”

Once that hurdle was cleared funding for a stadium had to be lined up and an existing minor league franchise had to be acquired.  On February 23, 1999, the official announcement was made.

Just two months later on April 26, 1999, ground was broken for what would come to be known as Fifth Third Field.  Just days after that, on May 3rd of that year, we learned the name of our new team.

It was just about one year after that, April 27, 2000, when the Dragons played their very first game at Dayton’s field of dreams.

Turner said, “It was so exciting to see that day and all the families had come down our downtown had become alive again and you could see where there was nothing there was now something that was going to be very meaningful to the community.”

The rest, as they say, is baseball history. Over the past two decades, the Dragons have become part of the fabric of Dayton and now we can’t imagine summer without them. 

Off the field, the Dragons have also been an economic home run drawing people, businesses and development to downtown Dayton.

“This part of town back then was a wasteland of warehouses and environmental hazards and we’ve changed this to be one of the hottest places to live now new apartments condos restaurants everywhere the business community is here and but for baseball none of that would have happened,” said Capizzi.

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