RubberDucks owner Ken Babby is reassuring Akron fans that he will remain a force in the city, even as he buys another minor-league team in Florida.
Babby has become a popular figure in the city after improving Canal Park and increasing promotions for the team, thereby bringing a lot more fans to the downtown stadium. He also has made a point of supporting several community activities.
The Jacksonville Suns are the AA Southern League affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
Here is the Ducks’ news release:
(AKRON, OHIO) March 9, 2015 – This morning, Akron RubberDucks owner Ken Babby’s purchase of the Jacksonville Suns was announced. The following is his statement regarding the purchase and his continued commitment to the city of Akron and all of Northeast Ohio:
“I remain deeply committed to Akron and the RubberDucks. I have made Akron my home and I feel part of this community. I’m excited about Akron’s future and thrilled to be part of its momentum. I look forward to strengthening the RubberDucks connection to Northeast Ohio, and continuing to make Canal Park the epicenter of affordable, family fun. We have a lot of fun planned for the 2015 season and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone on Opening Day (April 9, 6:35 p.m.).”
Here is the Suns’ release announcing completion of the sale:
BRAGAN FAMILY SELLING SUNS New owner Ken Babby to take control following 2015 season JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – The Jacksonville Suns announced today that the Bragan family, the longtime owners of the club, is selling its Southern League franchise to executive Ken Babby.
Peter Bragan, Sr. bought the franchise in 1984 and served as its Chairman of the Board until his death in 2012. His son, current President Peter “Pedro” Bragan, Jr., said it was a tough decision to sell but it was the right time and right new owner for the Jacksonville Suns.
“Ken is about the age I was when daddy bought the team,” Bragan, Jr. said. “He has the youth, enthusiasm, and smarts to carry on the great tradition of affordable family fun that daddy started so long ago.”
For Babby, this is the second Minor League Baseball franchise in which he has taken ownership after purchasing the Akron RubberDucks in October 2012 (named the Akron Aeros at the time of the sale). In two seasons under Babby, Akron’s attendance has increased 27.7 percent. Last season, attendance rose to 350,704, a record 15.7 percent increase over 2013 as the team rose from ninth to fourth in the Eastern League. There were 12 sellouts at Canal Park and an average of 5,157 fans, nearly 1,000 more than 2013.
The Akron RubberDucks are the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians in the Eastern League. Much of the growth in Akron is tied to Babby’s efforts to improve Canal Park and the gameday experience, which included new group and picnic areas, and one of the largest HD video boards in Minor League Baseball. In addition, last season he opened The Game Grill + Bar, a year-round, high-end restaurant at Canal Park.
“I am humbled and honored to take over the Suns from the Bragan family, who have created such a rich tradition and history,” said Babby. “I look forward to working closely with Pedro to ensure a smooth transition, and making the Suns the very best in affordable family entertainment in Jacksonville.”
The sale will not close until September, so Bragan, Jr. expressed his excitement about keeping the club for one final season, “I would like to invite all of our friends and acquaintances from all over North Florida and South Georgia to come see me and a ballgame, one last time.” Pedro’s Last Dance will be the Suns’ season-long promotion with several giveaways and special commemorative events to celebrate the end of an era. There will also be a bobblehead giveaway of Madame Chairman Mary Frances Bragan, on her 91st birthday on June 27.