Ten years after it opened as a state-of-the-art ballpark, Huntington Park is still helping to keep the Columbus Clippers (Class AAA; International League) on solid footing.
Huntington Park was praised by many–us included–when it opened in 2009 to replace the venerable Cooper Stadium, with its design features and fan amenities cited as being among the best in Minor League Baseball at the time. In the years since Huntington Park’s debut, the Triple-A level has seen a wave of new ballpark construction that has yielded some impressive facilities–including BB&T Ballpark for the Charlotte Knights (International League), First Tennessee Park for the Nashville Sounds (Pacific Coast League), and the brand-new Las Vegas Ballpark for the Las Vegas Aviators (Pacific Coast League).
And although Huntington Park is no longer the most modern among Triple-A ballparks, it has been well-maintained over the years and the Clippers are still experiencing success. Despite a drop in ticket sales, overall revenues were up in 2018 in comparison to 2017. The Clippers franchise has grown considerably since it was purchased by Franklin County more than 40 years ago, and many–including Clippers president and general manager Ken Schnacke–seem confident that Huntington Park will play a continued role in that growth going forward. More from WOSU:
Schnacke says they are in a comfortable spot to repay all their debt by the end of 2032. Revenue from tickets, concession and souvenir sales goes to paying back the money. Taxpayers have not been on the hook for the debt.
“We were very cognizant of paying down a lot of the debt early,” Schnacke says. “I mean, for the first 10 years, over 40% of our income stream went to retire debt.”
The Columbus Clippers have come a long way since their start. Franklin County purchased the Clippers franchise in 1976 from the Pittsburgh Pirates for $25,000. Today the team is valued as high as $55 million.
“I think the franchise ownership for us has been a real win,” says Franklin County commissioner Marilyn Brown. “When somebody else owns a franchise, if it’s privately owned, they can take it and leave at any time. We own it, so the taxpayers own this franchise and that makes all the difference in the world.”
Huntington Park is still a draw for major events at the Triple-A level, evidenced by its turn last year at hosting both the Triple-A All-Star Game and the Triple-A National Championship. It also remains popular with fans, as it is a three-time winner of our annual Best of the Ballparks Triple-A vote, with its most recent victory coming last year.
Image courtesy Columbus Clippers.