Akron RubberDucks to make $2 million in improvements to meet Major League standards
The Akron RubberDucks must make $2 million in improvements to its home, Canal Park, in order to keep its affiliation with Major League Baseball.
Akron RubberDucks owner Ken Babby appeared in front of Akron City Council Feb. 6 to request $2 million for upgrades to Canal Park. The council unanimously approved the funding.
The money will fund several improvements before opening day including a field replacement, additions of female locker rooms for coaches and umpires and a new dining area for players, he said.
“The Canal Park Stadium field is actually in the process of being replaced,” he said. “It has to do with everything from the bullpens, to the playing field, to the grass, the warning track, reducing the risk of player injuries from the drainage system, so a whole number of projects.”
These improvements, along with additional changes set to be completed for the 2024 season, will allow the RubberDucks to keep their status as a Professional Development League team.
Minor league teams across the country will be subject to audits to meet standards set by the major league, Babby said.
The MLB publicly announced the new standards in 2021. Those standards restructured the minor league and included pay increases for players as well as improved facility standards.
Other teams must make improvements as well, some that are far more expensive than Akron’s, Babby added. The other team he owns, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, needs $24.8 million in repairs, he said.
Babby said teams that fail to comply could face significant consequences, including losing professional development league status, or even losing the the team.
The Mahoning Valley Scrappers lost their minor league status as a result of the changes, he said.
“Several years ago, as I mentioned when Major League Baseball took over the restructuring of Minor League Baseball, they reduced the number of professional development league teams from 160 down to 120. Forty cities lost their minor league team,” he said. “The reason those teams where contracted was because of their lack of compliance under these new standards.”
Partnerships with cities are a crucial element to making the necessary investments into minor league teams, he added.
“Across the country, teams are working with their municipalities and counties to get the needed support,” he said. “Across the state of Ohio there has been significant investment into a number of the ballparks.”
The Akron RubberDucks will play their home opener against the Erie SeaWolves on April 6.