AVON – City officials are going to Florence, Ky., today to see Champion Window Field, home of the Frontier League`s Florence Freedom, in hopes of gleaning information that as they move to secure Avon`s own minor league baseball team.
Mayor Jim Smith will be joined by a group that includes a team of architects, Council President Clinton Pelfrey, planning coordinator Jim Piazza and Matt Perry, a partner in a Frontier League investment group.
Smith said he hopes to learn how Champion Window Field and the Florence Freedom baseball team work with the city. The mayor is pushing to bring a minor league baseball team to Avon by 2009.
“Looking at pictures is one thing. We want to go down there, touch, feel and see what the stadium has to offer,” Smith said.
Now that city residents have approved a 0.25 percentage point income tax increase, Smith said he is moving swiftly ahead on the recreation center and minor league baseball stadium. The tax will raise $1.2 million a year over the next three decades to build the $14.2 million YMCA center and $6 million to $9 million city-owned stadium.
Both will sit on a 122-acre site at Interstate 90 and state Route 611 that could eventually feature a Lorain County Metro Parks Splash Zone, ice hockey and skating rink, indoor soccer facility, tennis courts and youth football and soccer fields.
Smith likes the Florence stadium`s causal atmosphere, but more so, he likes how the stadium has quickly become Florence`s premier event venue, something he hopes to mimic in Avon.
“We don`t want this to be a fly-by-night fad. We`re looking for long-term sustainability, a place for high school and recreational teams to play,” he said.
The team is an economic driver for Florence and is an intricate part of the lifestyle of residents, Smith said.
“It`s a very important part of who we are,” Florence Mayor Diane Whalen said. “It sets us apart from every other city up and down the road. It`s a venue that is unlike any other and draws people to it because of that.”
In Florence, located just 12 miles south of downtown Cincinnati, the stadium is for more than just baseball.
The team`s management strives to host 100 events and games there each year, said Ashley Thompson, Florence Freedom spokeswoman.
“It`s really a community asset. It`s a stadium that everyone can call their own,” she said.
This year, the stadium hosted a Halloween party, where 300 costume-clad kids and their families showed up for a fun time. Thompson said it will be an annual event as is the annual Christmas party to be held in the coming weeks for players and fans.
The stadium is also the venue for an annual Easter egg hunt, held in conjunction with the city of Florence and the Florence Police Department, and the Florence Y`all Festival, a three-day festival sponsored by the city with rides in the parking lot and musical concerts on the field.
“Before the stadium was finished, the Y`all Festival was held on Main Street, which has limited parking and a mix of businesses and homes,” Whalen said. “Champion Window Field is perfect for the event.”
In addition, Northern Kentucky University plays all of its games at the stadium, as do several local high schools.
Finished in 2005 after three years of construction at a cost of about $9 million, Champion Window Field offers stadium-style seating for 3,800 with an additional 1,000 upper deck seats, which pushes attendance on sell-out nights to almost 5,000 people. Amenities at the stadium include team locker rooms, concession stands, four enclosed suites that can be rented on a game-by-game basis, kids zone playground area and beer garden and bar along the first base line.
Smith said conceptual drawings on Avon`s 3,500-seat stadium are still in the planning stages, but he hopes an architectural firm will soon be selected and plans can be completed by February. The city hopes to bid out the contract in March and award a bid by April.