AKRON, Ohio – Every year Akron RubberDucks offers a few new things, usually various food items, maybe extra creative promotional giveaways.
This year, there are 7,630 changes.
That’s the bowl-seating capacity at the ballpark that sits along Main Street in downtown Akron. Every one of the seats has been replaced.
Here’s a look at what you can expect this season:
in the stands
The ballpark is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and that quarter-century anniversary commemoration means the seats were 25 years old.
Hussey Seating, a Maine company with roots in the 19th century, manufactured the original and newly installed seats for the park. The company equips stadiums, arenas, gyms and other venues across the country.
Seating in the sections beyond the dugouts is set up at an angle, as in years past, so fans face home plate.
Most of the bowl will have blue seats, but seats designated “Diamond” are padded, orange and blue, and are more expensive. They are in the first five rows behind home plate and two rows behind the dugouts.
Diamond seats for a single game in the front row will be $23 (in advance) and $25 (the day of the event). Seats in rows 2-5 will be $20 (advance) and $22 (the day of). Ticket price on ticket day for all other seats will be $15, though $5 early bird specials and $2 hot dogs return.
Additionally, the upper level of the suite’s exterior seating was refreshed with “outdoor theater seating” and the interior spaces were refreshed as well. This was a multi-year project, said Jim Pfander, the team’s general manager. The park has 25 suites.
Three extreme food items are served:
• Never Sausage a Thing – Ducks’ version of a Polish boy, this is a giant beef hot dog topped with coleslaw, green onions and barbecue sauce. The piece de resistance? A baked potato serves as the muffin.
• Another Cheesy Canal Park Dog, a foot-long hot dog topped with pulled pork, fried onions and macaroni and cheese.
• Chicken PopCONE, a turn of chicken and waffles. Crispy Fried Popcorn Chicken is tossed in a spicy honey sauce and served in a waffle cone.
Other items, not quite extreme but new to the menu, include the foot-long chili dog and loaded potatoes, which are topped with chili, cheese, fried onions, sour cream and green onions.
This season marks the 10th anniversary of extreme food items at Canal Park. To celebrate, a trio of items from 2011 return, for the sake of nostalgia: the Nice 2 Meat U Burger, 3 Dog Night and, for dessert, The Screamer. That’s the shareable helmet packed with 21 scoops of ice cream on top of a brownie base. It is topped with bananas, cherries, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Not Your Routine Poutine and TeriyAkron Pineapple Bowl also return.
“It’s a big part of what we do,” Pfander said. “It’s part of the match day experience. You think about the moment fans enter the stadium: the sights, the sounds, the smells. It’s a big part of what keeps people coming back to the stadium.”
When asked about the nutritional count of the food, Pfander joked, “The good news is that we have a lot of great hospital partners here. Of course, we always have our offer of wraps, fruits and salads. Nobody wants to talk about it.”
Back: The Tiki Club beer garden near the right field foul pole, Fowl Territory along the left field line, and the Duck Club.
Moving: Jobu’s Craft Beers, previously tucked away in the hall behind home plate, is moving to the Bier Garten along the first base line. A few different beer offerings are in the works, Pfander said.
In the countryside
Akron won its sixth league championship last year. And when you flip through the annals of the minor leagues, there will be a different description next to the team name.
“It was a one-year hiatus,” Pfander said. “We were the Double AA Northeast League.” He said Major League Baseball recently went back from level designations to specific names. Triple AAA is again the Pacific Coast League, for example. And that means the classic Eastern League, home to Cleveland’s Class AA affiliate for decades, is back, too.
Outfielder George Valero and pitcher Daniel Espino, the top two prospects in the Cleveland Guardians’ system, are on the Ducks’ roster. They are both 21 years old. Receiver Bo Naylor is also back. Fourteen players return to the 23-man roster, with five more spots to be named.
Akron opens the season at 6:05 pm on Friday, April 8 in Erie. The opening home game is Tuesday, April 12 at 7:05 pm against Reading.
“We’re excited to be playing baseball in April,” he said.
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I’m in cleveland.comThe life and culture team at y covers topics related to food, beer, wine and sports. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory at cleveland.com. Bill Wills of WTAM-1100 and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 am on a Thursday morning. Twitter: @mbona30.
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