The Akron City Council unanimously approved a 25-year lease deal crafted to keep the Aeros baseball team at Canal Park.
Council members voted 11-0, with no discord among members. Linda Omobien (at-large) and Mike Freeman (Ward 9) were absent.
“I think it’s just a great thing for this city,” council President Marco Sommerville told his fellow members.
Council members were given a copy of the lease and a summary at their homes last weekend. Mayor Don Plusquellic also spoke during the special meeting called for the lease agreement.
The Aeros, the minor-league affiliate of the Indians and a member of the Class AA Eastern League since moving to Akron 15 years ago, officially were sold Thursday to businessman Ken Babby, 32, of Potomac, Md.
He did not attend Thursday’s council meeting, but plans to meet with members soon, Plusquellic said.
Babby is the founder and CEO of Fast Forward Sports Group LLC, which is based in the Cleveland-Akron area. He purchased the team from longtime owners Mike and Greg Agganis and sought a new lease as part of the sale. The current lease expires in five years.
The new lease calls for $3.5 million in improvements to Canal Park that will be paid through the team’s lease payments. The city and the Summit County Port Authority will secure the $3.5 million through tax-exempt bonds.
Improvements include a new scoreboard and picnic-style and group-seating areas. Also, the Aeros will be responsible for field upkeep. The team will pay about $220,000 a season in rent. The Aeros might sell the naming rights to Canal Park, but any funds generated must be reinvested in the ballpark, Plusquellic said.
The mayor said the deal is a good one for the city and the team.
“We wanted to make sure the team stays here,” he said.
The stadium, in downtown Akron, opened in 1997 and cost about $31 million. The city has paid off about half that cost.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.