Akron: Canal Park improvements on new Aeros owner's mind

6:43 PM, Oct 23, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON -- There are 172 days until the next pitch at Canal Park Stadium, but that doesn't mean the Akron Aeros home will be dormant until April.

Ken Babby is a first-time owner, ready to make his mark on the Akron Aeros after purchasing the team earlier this month. On Tuesday, he was formally introduced.

"I think the experience here will be a unique one, and we're all quite obsessed about making sure that people love their time in Canal Park," said Babby.

Babby says he'll spend a lot of time behind home plate, figuring out what fans want.

"By asking," he said. "I believe, fundamentally, and have spent a good portion of the last year here in Akron talking to people and finding out what they love about coming to Aeros' games and what they wish they could have."

Babby and the city of Akron, which owns Canal Park, will work together to update the stadium, and hopefully bring up attendance as well.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic toured stadiums in Columbus and Allentown, PA, in preparation for updates. "I've spent a lot of time myself visiting these stadiums to sort of know and understand what needs to be done," he said.

"Fans will start to see some early tastes of that," said Babby, as soon as the 2013 season kicks off in April.

"For us, it really will be from the moment that you leave your car, you come in, you have that first interaction with an usher. You'll see a new video board and scoreboard, one of the largest in minor league baseball," said Babby.

Babby, who will foot the bill for improvements, says this is a long-term plan for a family-friendly environment: think outdoor group party areas, new restaurant space and kid activities.

"The video experience, audio and sound, concessions, really all aspects...of the time that people spend here" will be on the table for improvements, said Babby.

Even if you aren't a fan of the game, Mayor Plusquellic says a thriving stadium impacts everyone in the city.

"You invest in downtown, it pays off, hopefully, by having more employers want to be there, that provides jobs for people, and then they pay taxes and it helps provide services," said Plusquellic.

Babby is one of Akron's newest residents, already registered to vote here in November. He previously lived in Maryland and worked with the Washington Post Digital.

Although this is his first experience in professional sports, his father is a former sports agent who is now with the Phoenix Suns.

The Aeros will keep their name and their relationship with the Cleveland Indians for now. They've just committed to another four years together.

The Aeros just won their fourth 2012 Eastern League Championship, finishing the 2012 season with the best regular season record in Double-A baseball.

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