The Akron-Canton area’s rainy summer has cast a dark cloud over many of the region’s fair-weather attractions.
Rain has had a big impact on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, where ridership is down about 5 percent.
“We’re still seeing good numbers, but rainy weather has an impact,” said Kelly Steele, a spokeswoman for the tourist railroad that runs through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The railroad’s popular Bike Aboard program, where bicyclists pedal one way on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail and ride the train back, has been hurt the most, she said.
On a good-weather day, the railroad may transport 400 bicyclists and their bikes with each paying $3, she said. On a rainy day, the trains may carry only 30 bicyclists.
“That’s a big difference,” Steele said.
The railroad’s regularly scheduled scenic excursions rely heavily on advance reservations and are less affected by bad weather, she said. About 40 percent of railroad ridership is walk-ups.
On the flip side, hot, steamy days in the 90s are also bad for business, Steele said.
Persistent showers and daily pockets of storms have forced many indoors.
The National Weather Service recorded 5.91 inches of rain in June at Akron-Canton Airport — 54 percent above normal.
And the rain has not let up in July with thunderstorms in the forecast every day through Sunday.
It looks to be a particularly wet Fourth of July with the likelihood of showers and thunderstorms at 70 percent. As much as a half-inch of rain is predicted.
While water is what drives the fun at Water Works Family Aquatic Center in Cuyahoga Falls, it is not very much fun when it falls from the sky.
Ed Stewart, assistant parks and recreation superintendent, said attendance at Water Works is down about 4 percent compared to last year.
“We’ve been closed a lot, but it seems as though the days that are nice, they’re really coming out,” he said. “We’ve had some really big days, but we’ve had some days where we didn’t open.”
Stewart said the rain, coupled with temperatures in the 30s over Memorial Day weekend, made this season a challenge at the city-run park.
Wet weather has forced some golfers at Akron’s Good Park to take shelter, but course manager Dante D’Andrea said the rain has helped keep the grass green.
“We’re doing OK,” he said. “The course is holding up a lot better than in the past.”
D’Andrea said the storms have forced golfers and workers to seek shelter from lightning.
“Every year it’s a different challenge. For instance, this March, it was cold and rainy, but last year, it was beautiful. It’s been a strange weather year, but we’re doing fine.”
Rain is also good for greening up the outfield at Canal Park in Akron.
But downpours have wreaked havoc on the Aeros and the fans in the stands.
Aeros first-year owner Ken Babby might be new to the game, but his right-hand man — Jim Pfander, the team’s general manager and chief operating officer — is well versed in quickly turning to Plan B when the weather dictates a change of plans.
Over the weekend, heavy rain and thunderstorms kept the weekend series with visiting Altoona in a constant state of flux.
Because of a rainout earlier in the season between the teams, the Aeros and Curve were already scheduled to play a doubleheader Friday. But storms moved into Akron after the first seven-inning game, causing the cancellation of the second game that for the third time had to be rescheduled to Saturday to create another doubleheader.
Show must go on
In the past, weather-related situations like last weekend’s were usually dealt with by quickly postponing the games and then dealing with a handful of make-up doubleheaders late in the season. But Babby and his energetic staff live by the “Show Must Go On” motto as much as humanly possible.
“On Friday night, we knew the bad weather was coming in sometime during the evening,” Babby said. “But with so many wonderful families and kids in the ballpark, we knew that while rare, displaying the fireworks between games was just the right thing to do. We knew we were likely to get some bad weather later that evening and didn’t want to chance waiting.”
Flood at ballpark
The weather at Canal Park became even more intense Saturday evening. About an hour before the first game was scheduled to begin at 5:35 p.m., heavy rain, thunder and lightning stormed into downtown Akron.
With all hands on deck, the Aeros staff had time to get the heavy tarp in place to cover the infield. But the weather flooded both dugouts.
“Saturday was really tough,” Babby said.
After the storm passed over, the grounds crew scrambled to get the dugouts drained of waist-high water and prepare the field by painstakingly squeegeeing several large puddles around the dirt warning track.
“The water in the dugout probably was only up to [Aeros’ 6-foot-6 pitcher] Cole Cook’s ankles, but it was up to my waist,” Babby joked. “But our staff devised a little system to build a bridge to be able to get the players out there. We’re lucky the field drains so well, so that the biggest issues were navigating the water in the hallway to the dugout and the soaked warning track.”
The games, while delayed, went on, and the final pitch of the second game of the doubleheader wasn’t thrown until around 1 a.m.
“It was a very, very, very long night,” Babby admitted.
Since moving to Akron to take over the Aeros, Babby has come to learn and appreciate the Akron community.
“Northeast Ohio baseball fans are incredibly resilient,” he said. “There’s been some nights, even back in April with the cold and now in the summer with the rain, where you just say to yourself, ‘Wow, these fans are something else.’ ”
Beacon Journal staff writers Bob Downing, Marilyn Miller and Stephanie Storm and correspondent Gina Mace contributed to this report.