After undergoing several years of improvements under Akron RubberDucks (Class AA; Eastern League) owner Ken Babby, Canal Park will be in the spotlight.
On Wednesday, the ballpark is set to host the Eastern League All-Star Game. This event comes after years of improvements to Canal Park, including a new playing surface before this season and, in previous years, upgrades to group, picnic, and premium spaces, as well as a new videoboard.
Much of that change has occurred under Babby, who took ownership of the team in the fall of 2012. Babby, along with general manager Jim Pfander, have managed to boost attendance over the last several seasons, and Babby is applying a similar formula to his other recently-purchased franchise, the Jacksonville Suns (Class AA; Eastern League).
For Babby, the renewed interest in Canal Park–which first opened in 1997–has to do with the team’s ability to highlight the ballpark and its amenities in an affordable fashion. More from Cleveland.com:
“I think what we offer is quite differentiated. When we talk about affordable family fun we’re serious. Here you can always get in for $5. Hot dogs are $3. The city has 7,000 parking spots. When we scream about affordability we really really mean it. Our competition is not other sports teams; the Indians are tremendous partners. They will have two All Stars (Danny Salazar and Francisco Lindor) who both played here. It’s movies, the grill, the pool and the back yard and hanging out at home. It’s not competing in terms of dollars; it’s time. I ask ‘where do you think everyone is?’ The answer is at home, at a graduation party, playing video games.”
The achievement of hosting an All-Star Game is a major one for the RubberDucks. Despite Canal Park’s age, the ballpark has never been the site of an All-Star Game. In addition to the contest on Wednesday, Canal Park will host several All-Star Break events on Tuesday evening, including a celebrity softball game and the Eastern League home run derby.