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Council OKs long-term Canal Park lease

10/18/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

And hears from new Aeros owner

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron City Council met for a special meeting Oct. 11 to approve the lease of Canal Park Stadium to Akron Baseball LLC, a move related to the sale of the Akron Aeros minor league baseball team to Ken Babby.

Mayor Don Plusquellic said the sale of the team represents “good news for the city of Akron, for the citizens, for the people who care about the future of the city. … We wanted to make sure that we kept this team here.”

The lease is for 25 years, with a five-year renewal option. Under the agreement, $3.5 million in capital improvements will be made to the stadium, funded through Babby’s lease payments. Planned improvements include a new scoreboard and the addition of group seating.

Plusquellic said he hopes the sale will keep a large number of people coming into downtown.

Councilman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) stated that before Canal Park Stadium was built, 15,000 people worked downtown, a number that has now doubled.

Councilman Bruce Kilby (D-Ward 2) asked about the remaining debt on the construction of the stadium. The city, Plusquellic and Finance Director Diane Miller-Dawson responded, owes about $16 million on the original $31 million and makes about $2 million a year in payments.

Eleven Council members were present to approve the lease agreement, with Council members Linda Omobien (D-at large) and Mike Freeman (D-Ward 9) absent. Councilman Michael Williams (D-at large) arrived shortly before the unanimous vote.

Babby was not present at the meeting, sending his regrets through Council President Marco Sommerville (D-Ward 3), who said Babby was advised by his legal counsel not to appear until the sale was complete.

On Oct. 15, however, Council did hear directly from Babby during the afternoon session of Council committee meetings. The new owner, on “literally my first day in my office in the park,” said he now calls Akron home and is honored to be here. “I couldn’t have picked a better place,” he said.

In response to a question by Councilman Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10), Babby said there are no immediate plans to change the name of the team, although it would be something that would be analyzed carefully.

“For the foreseeable future, we’ll be the Akron Aeros,” he said.

With 179 days until opening day, Babby said he believes the Aeros organization’s mission to be “to deliver outstanding quality experience to families and to do so at an affordable price.”

At Council’s Oct. 15 regular meeting, members voted to accept a grant from the state of Ohio for high visibility enforcement overtime.

The $60,654 grant will cover overtime expenses for Akron Police Department officers to enforce speed, seat belt usage and DUI laws in high-fatality and -accident areas in the city. Akron has received the High Visibility Enforcement Overtime grant for several consecutive years. The grant requires no cash match and runs through Sept. 30, 2013.

Council also placed several items on the consent agenda for Oct. 22, including:

• the filing of an application for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant from the Department of Homeland Security that would fund the hiring of 38 firefighters;

• the installation of individual water meters in the Copley Square allotment, where water usage has been charged on a flat rate but now will be charged on an individual basis like Akron’s other water customers; and

• legislation approving $32,350 for the replacement of lockers at the Balch Street Fitness Center.

Akron City Council’s next regular meeting will take place Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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