Avon is ready to play ball

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  • 12-28-07: Stadium Architects Chosen

  • 4-14-08: Avon ballpark to open in June 2009

  • 4-29-08: Work continues on Avon recreation center

  • 6-17-08: Avon awards contract to build new ballpark

  • 7-1-08: Groundbreaking for Baseball Stadium

  • 8-15-08: Ryan Gates chosen general manager for Avon Ball club

  • 11-27-08: Avon Professional Baseball hopes to unveil the results of the naming contest before Thanksgiving

  • 11-22-08: North Ridgeville to share in Avon's ballpark wealth

  • 11-27-08: Lake Erie Crushers

    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-21-07, by JOHN DEIKE, Morning Journal Writer

    [Baseball Stadium Progress]

    ``AVON -- ... Mayor Jim Smith ... is hustling to provide his city with multiple recreation opportunities ... Smith, Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza and two groups of architects will soon be driving to Dayton and Florence, Ky., in order to look at ball parks comparable to the one they want to build in Avon, Smith said ...

    The stadium will cost between $8 and $9.5 million, it will have a bowl shape and hold about 5,000 people, and instead of grass, artificial turf will be used, Smith said ...

    Since the $13.5 million recreation center will lie adjacent to the stadium, the two projects will be built in conjunction with each other, right off Interstate 90, Smith said.

    Within the next two weeks, Smith will choose an architect for the recreation center which he wants to have two swimming pools and fully equipped exercise areas, he said.

    One pool will be used for competitive swimming for the local schools, and one of the exercise rooms will overlook the third base line of the baseball field, Smith said.

    In terms of the budget, the Cleveland YMCA will pay for $5.5 million of the construction costs and assume the operating costs, and the city will pay for the other $8 million with the money generated from the new 0.25 percent income tax, Smith said.

    As for the baseball field, the incoming owners of the minor league team will cover 40 percent with the rest coming new income tax paying for the construction costs, and the owners will pay for the yearly maintenance of the field, he said. The baseball field will be used by the minor league team, residents and recreation baseball teams, Smith added.

    ''This multi-million dollar project will act as an economic driver for the city since hotels have shown interest in building near the planned construction site, and since developers have shown interest in building two hockey rinks in the area,'' Smith said.''

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 12-28-07, by Lisa Roberson

    [Stadium Architects Chosen]

    ``AVON -- The minor league baseball stadium the city plans to build will offer intimate seating for 3,500 and many amenities that will make it stand out in the community, according to the architect team slated to design the ballpark.

    Christopher Wynn, director of design at Cleveland-based Osborn Architects and Engineers, said the project -- which could cost as much as $9 million -- will have family-friendly amenities while still drawing on the design concepts of turn-of-the-century ballparks. It will be similar in size and capacity to Champion Window Field in Florence, Ky., home of the Frontier League's Florence Freedom.

    The best feature of the ballpark by far will be the seating, Wynn said. "The whole beauty of minor league baseball is that no stadium is built with those nosebleed kinds of seats," he said. "All the seats will be excellent, very intimate."

    Avon Mayor Jim Smith said Osborn and RWL Architects, another architecture firm, will team up on the design concept and engineering of the stadium. Contracts will be inked soon to formalize the decision, but both companies have committed to the project ...

    The stadium, along with a YMCA recreation center, will anchor a 122-acre recreation complex at Interstate 90 and state Route 611 that could eventually feature a Lorain County Metro Parks water park, ice hockey and skating rink, indoor soccer facility, tennis courts and youth football and soccer fields.

    City residents are footing the bill with a voter-approved 0.25 percentage point income tax increase that will raise $1.2 million a year over the next three decades to build the $14.2 million YMCA center and city-owned stadium.

    In describing the stadium, Wynn said fans will enter on a main concourse level that will allow patrons to walk down toward the field. For ballgames, the seating capacity with be about 3,500 and as high as 5,000 for special events.

    The design includes a press box, 11 suites with movable walls, two team clubhouses, restrooms, picnic areas, a kids" fun zone and parking for 1,200 to 1,300 cars. A grass berm along the outfield edge will allow families to spread out a blanket for the children as they watch a game.

    And, while traditional ballpark food like hot dogs and Cracker Jacks will be staples, Wynn said the design team may add a restaurant near right field that will offer more substantial cuisine. The restaurant would be independent of the stadium but overlook the field.

    Lastly, the lighting will not only illuminate night games, but it will also serve as a beacon welcoming visitors to the city ...''

    Contact Lisa Roberson at lroberson@chroniclet.com.

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 4-14-08, by Jason Hawk

    ``Avon ballpark to open in June 2009

    AVON -- The sun is shining, the grass is green and the Tribe is playing again. It's baseball season in Northeast Ohio.

    But if you want to root, root, root for the minor league home team, it's going to be another year. Avon Mayor Jim Smith said he wants to break ground sometime next month [5-08] on a 5,000-seat baseball stadium at the corner of Interstate 90 and state Route 611. The ballpark will open the first week of June 2009 and will be home to a brand-new Frontier League expansion team.

    It's not all about hot dogs and home runs, however. Smith said the field and a new YMCA next door will be a safe place for teens to hang out and will also pump a lot of cash into the local economy ...

    Avon might have been able to swing the cost of its own recreation center, Smith said, but partnering with the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and the Frontier League will give about 295,000 people in a 10- or 15-mile radius a perfect place to exercise and have fun.

    Smith said he expects about 2 million people a year to visit the stadium, driving up local tourism and bringing a host of new businesses to the Interstate 90 corridor, including a hotel, restaurants and offices. There will be plenty for adults to do, too, including a party patio with beer and concessions, loges and tie-ins with local company fitness plans.

    Smith said the stadium will be a lot easier to build than an office building or Avon's police department, so it won't take nearly as long to finish. The YMCA, meanwhile, should be complete by December 2009, he said.

    Terri Manns, vice president of fund development for the Cleveland YMCA, said her organization needs about $5.2 million to build the new athletic facility, which will include a traditional gym, hockey rink and swimming pool.

    A big part of that will come from a 0.25-percent income tax increase passed by Avon voters in November [2007]. The tax will raise $1.2 million a year over the next 30 years to build the $6 million to $9 million stadium and the $14.2 million YMCA.

    In the past few months, officials have decided to call the site the French Creek YMCA in Avon, Manns said.

    Once finished, the facility will create about 85 new jobs, YMCA of Greater Cleveland President Glenn Haley said. "The ramifications for the economy of the entire county are tremendous," he said ...

    Manns said her organization pumped $8.6 million into the regional economy when building the Lakewood YMCA in 2005 and 2006. The site pays out $1.1 million a year in wages and generates $300,000 in federal, state and local tax revenue ...

    The YMCA of Greater Cleveland doesn't have any link to the old Lorain or Elyria YMCAs, Manns said. The groups were separate nonprofits run by different management. For information about donating to the new YMCA project, call (216) 263-6844 or e-mail tmanns@clevelandymca.org

    Smith said the Frontier League is locked into the new stadium deal, but there's always a 5 percent chance that the deal will fall through. Lorain officials fell into that 5 percent gap when the league decided not to put a team at the brand-new Pipe Yard. "That's not going to happen here," Smith said.''

    Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 4-29-08, by The Morning Journal Staff

    [Work continues on Avon recreation center]

    ``AVON -- Construction of a new Avon YMCA recreation center and minor league baseball park can soon begin following the passage last night [4-28-08] by City Council of an ordinance for the excavation of new land acquired at the site.

    The site at SR 611 and Interstate 90 has already been cleared and is preparing for the ''the first shovel of dirt,'' in construction of the facility, according to Avon Engineer Michael Bramhall. The ball park is scheduled to host games as soon as June of 2009.

    Avon Mayor Jim Smith said council passed the measure unanimously. Now the city will seek quotes for grading the recently-acquired land, which measures about 20 acres. ''It has to be graded to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements,'' Smith said. The grading should cost about $60,000, he said.

    Avon passed a 0.25 percent income tax in November [2007] to fund a ballpark and recreation center, which is set to include two swimming pools. Some of the costs for the recreation center will be covered by the YMCA of Greater Cleveland ...

    Bramhall said that when the site was cleared, the city discovered that the land drains rapidly to a nearby runoff ditch. The excavation will move the soil and control the sediment runoff.

    ''It's preparing the land for development,'' Bramhall said. The project is starting to get underway and will be ''going out to bid within 30 days,'' said Bramhall.''

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 6-17-08, by Steve Fogarty

    ``Avon awards contract to build new ballpark

    AVON -- The city is a few steps closer to hearing the crack of the bats and smelling the aroma of hot dogs and popcorn fill the stands of the city's new 5,000-seat minor league ballpark slated to open in June 2009.

    During a special City Council meeting Monday night [6-16-08], the city passed legislation approving a contract with Avon Ballpark LLC, the company that will oversee operation of the Frontier League Single-A expansion team, and awarded an $11.3 million bid for construction of the facility.

    With ownership groups based in Topeka, Kansas and Chicago, the company has agreed to a 15-year lease, the terms of which call for the firm to pay the city $250,000 at a rate of $50,000 a month for the five months the team will play baseball, according to Avon Mayor Jim Smith. "In addition to paying us that amount each month, they will do all the maintenance and upkeep."

    The 15-year lease includes three five-year options that could extend the lease to 30 years. The company will also invest $2.5 million in equipment, a substantial portion of which will cover the cost of outfitting the ballpark's kitchens, which will supply everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to catered meals and buffets for the stadium's 11 loges. The $2.5 million will also cover the cost of office equipment, computers and phone systems.

    The ballpark will be built by Infinity Construction, a Cuyahoga County firm. The $11.3 million bid includes $400,000 for a sophisticated, high-tech scoreboard, but that cost may in the end be paid for by a corporate sponsor whose name would adorn it. "The figure could go back to $10.9 million, but for now, we're leaving that ($400,000) in," said Smith.

    [On 6-9-08, at a regular meeting, the Avon Council approved a bid for $5.2 million from Terrace Construction of Cleveland for roads, sewers, and water for the French Creek Recreation Complex, bringing the total so far for infrastructure to about $7 million.]

    The ballpark will be paid for from a 0.25 percent income tax passed by voters in November 2007. The issue is expected to generate $1.2 million a year for the next 30 years to pay for the stadium, as well as a good portion of the cost of a new regional YMCA, which has a projected price tag of $14.2 million.

    Work to clear the Interstate 90 and state Route 611 site for the ballpark, regarded as the crown jewel of a complex that will include a new YMCA and businesses from restaurants and hotels, began about a month ago.

    Smith expects an official groundbreaking within the next couple of weeks. "They've got to be substantially ready to go by June 1, 2009, although they have the option of scheduling some away games for a few weeks if they're late, completing construction, he said.

    Smith said the new stadium should get a real workout hosting not only a standard 48-game Frontier League season, but a large number of high school and college games, in addition to community concerts, as well as larger affairs featuring big-name entertainers.

    "The stadium seats 5,000, but for concerts we can put people on the field and that should bring us up to 8,000 to 9,000," he said. "We still have to work out the details for all of that. This is going to do the whole county a lot of good."''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 6-17-08, by ANTHONY RIOS and CHANDA NEELY, Morning Journal Writers

    ``Dreams of baseball become a reality for Avon

    AVON -- The dream has become a reality as professional baseball will soon be in the city of Avon. Avon Mayor Jim Smith signed a contract with the team's owner National Sports Center to form Avon Baseball LLC.

    ''We have a contract with them for five months for $250,000,'' Smith said. ''They'll pay us $50,000 a month to use the field for five months, but they will take care of the maintenance for 12 months.''

    National Sports Center is based in Blaine, Minn., and opened in 1990. The 600-acre campus is the world's largest amateur and meeting facility, according to the company's Web site.

    Avon Council unanimously voted to accept a $10.9 million bid [plus $400,000 for a score board = $11.3 million] from Infinity in Warrensville Heights to build a new 3,500 seat baseball stadium on SR 611 at Interstate 90.

    ''We got a good bid,'' Smith said. ''We could add a few things and (the cost) could be a little more or we could take a few things away and it could be a little lower. It came in just about where we wanted it.''

    A Frontier League expansion team will play its home games at the new stadium. There will also be opportunity for area teams to play on the field and concerts to be held at the venue.

    ''They will use the field for five months out of the year and our high school kids will be using it when they don't have a game,'' Smith said. ''(The expansion team) plays a 48 game season starting in June. Our high school kids will play most games on the field.

    ''For a little more, we got a turf field,'' Smith added. ''When you have regular grass, you can use it about 60 to 70 times a year before the grass starts to burn out. This way, you get 100 to 120 uses without burning the grass out. It doubles the ability to use the field.''

    A name for the team has yet to be determined. Completion for the stadium is projected for May 2009.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 5-1-08, by the Morning Journal Staff

    ``Bramhall, Herzer new co-chairs of YMCA effort

    AVON -- Attorney David L. Herzer and engineer Michael Bramhall will be heading up the YMCA of Greater Cleveland's Healthy Communities Campaign to build a new Y in Avon.

    ''We are thrilled to have two such key individuals to help us lead our capital campaign,'' said Glenn Haley, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland. ''Their leadership will no doubt make a tremendous difference as we work to raise the needed $5.2 million to complete the construction of the new French Creek YMCA at Avon.''

    The organization is campaigning to gain support for the new YMCA that will be constructed in Avon at SR 611 and Interstate 90. Groundbreaking on the new 66,527-square-foot facility will be later this year. It is scheduled to open in December 2009.

    Herzer, 63, of Vermilion, is the president and chief executive officer of Wickens Herzer Panza Cook & Batista, Lorain County's largest law firm and located in Avon.

    The Lorain High School graduate also graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. He is a director or trustee of more than 100 corporate boards.

    Bramhall, 38, of Avon, is the president of Bramhall Engineering and Surveying. The professional engineer and land surveyor is the city engineer for Avon and several other Lorain County municipalities. He also has worked on several large scale design build projects throughout the country.

    Bramhall serves on the board of the Lorain County Community College Foundation, the North Coast Regional Chamber of Commerce and Community Health Partners as well as the board of trustees of Lake Ridge Academy. He is past president of the North Coast Regional Chamber of Commerce.

    The French Creek YMCA is being built on a 122-acre site at SR 611 and I-90 and will be a cornerstone of the new recreational complex, which will include a minor league baseball stadium and several soccer fields. It is being designed by Doty and Miller Architects.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 5-20-08, by SCOT ALLYN, Morning Journal Writer

    ``Avon project manager to keep eye on new complex

    AVON -- As work moves forward on Avon's recreation/sports complex on SR 611 at Interstate 90, the city has hired a manager to oversee contractors for the project.

    Charles Palenko was approved last night unanimously by Avon City Council for a minimum one-year contract as construction project manager. Avon Mayor Jim Smith said Palenko will work on the project, including a minor-league baseball stadium and a YMCA, until both facilities are done.

    Completion date for the 3,500-seat baseball stadium is May 2009, and a 65,000-square-foot YMCA is scheduled to finish in December 2009.

    With a post office also scheduled to begin construction this summer at the city's municipal campus on Detroit Road, Avon Service Director Jerry Plas will be busy, Smith said.

    [Avon entered a lease agreement with the United States Postal Service in December 2007 to build a 8,300-square-foot post office. The City will finish building the shell of the building by the end of 2008, lease it to the Postal Service; and they will finish the inside to their specifications. The old post office was built about 20 years ago and is only about 4,000 square feet.]

    Palenko has worked in construction for 25 years, and has overseen projects in Columbus and for Midview Schools. ''We want Palenko in from the start,'' Smith said. ''It's good for the city to have eyes and ears on the scene for the project.''

    Avon has filed for permits with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and topsoil at the 122-acre site has been removed. Bids from contractors on the first phases of the project are due back to the city in about two weeks, Smith said. Installation of lines for sewers, water, electric and gas should start this summer.

    The stadium, in a traditional red brick design, will include 3,500 fixed seats, with room for 1,500 more spectators outside the outfield fence, on a mounded picnic area. It will be home to a Frontier League expansion team that has yet to be named, according to Smith.

    Estimated to cost $13.5 million, the YMCA is being designed by Bedford-based Doty & Miller Architects, with input from the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.

    Avon voters approved a 0.25-percent income tax last November to pay for the project.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 5-8-08, by Steve Fogarty

    ``Avon YMCA expected to be countywide draw

    AVON -- Officials of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland say the new $14.2 million French Creek YMCA may be built in Avon, but it is designed to attract residents from all of Lorain County.

    Plans also call for increased and expanded programming at a new $450,000 facility in Lorain, and additional YMCA programs and services offered in collaboration with Elyria's YWCA. The new Elyria programs are expected to cost $150,000, according to YMCA of Greater Cleveland officials.

    "Our key focus is that this will be a regional facility," said Glenn Haley, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, who said the new 66,527-square-foot YMCA will be within reach of the majority of Lorain County residents.

    Designed as the centerpiece of a 122-acre recreation-sports complex planned for state Route 611 at Interstate 90, the new YMCA will feature an eight-lane indoor pool with spectator seating, an aerobics-multipurpose studio, child-care center, family gym, sauna, steam rooms, whirlpool and wellness center. Ground will be broken this year.

    While some details of the Avon facility have been previously announced, Wednesday was the first time officials had disclosed specific plans for Elyria and Lorain.

    "That's been a big question on the minds of many people here," Haley said. "This isn't just an Avon facility. Our goal is to serve the entire county again." ...

    About $8 million of the price tag for the new Y will come from a 0.25 percent income tax levy approved by Avon voters last November that will generate approximately $1.2 million annually for 30 years. The remaining $5.7 million of the $14.2 million cost of the facility will be generated through a fundraising campaign.

    The Avon sports complex also will contain a planned 5,000-seat minor league baseball stadium slated to open in the summer of 2009. The tax revenue also will help build pay the estimated $6 million to $9 million cost for that.

    Because Avon residents passed the income tax levy, they will receive discounted monthly membership rates, which typically range from $15 for teens to $76 for families. But the YMCA's open-door policies means efforts will be made to offer its services and facilities to as many people as possible, regardless of their ability to pay, officials said.

    Operating and maintenance costs of the Avon Y will be paid for through the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, which has no connection to the defunct Y operations in Elyria and Lorain. Those were run by unrelated nonprofit agencies. The Avon facility is expected to have an operating budget of $2 million and employ 85 full- and part-time workers.

    Haley said YMCAs in Lakewood, Geauga County, Columbus and Youngstown operate through similar financial arrangements that incorporate local tax revenue with money provided through fundraising efforts.''

    Contact Steve Fogarty at sfogarty@chroniclet.com.


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 6-19-08, By Bryan Story, bstory@sunnews.com

    ``AVON -- Plans for a minor league baseball team and a stadium to host it are coming closer to reality for the city.

    At Monday's City Council meeting [6-16-08], members voted to approve an $11.3 million contract with Infinity Construction, a firm based in Warrensville Heights, to build the 5,000-seat stadium. [The stadium will include 3,500 fixed seats, with room for 1,500 more spectators outside the outfield fence]

    The contract is exactly what the city was looking for, said Mayor Jim Smith, who added that it could be changed slightly if corporate sponsors come into play.

    Specifically, Smith mentioned that the stadium's proposed $400,000 scoreboard could be paid for by a sponsor who could then advertise on the board.

    The project is up against a tight schedule with the city planning to have the first games played at the stadium in May or June 2009.

    During the same meeting, council approved a contract with National Sports Center, creating Avon Baseball LLC, the company that will oversee the operations of the new baseball team.

    The 15-year contract requires Avon Baseball to pay the city $50,000 per month for the five months per year that they will use the ballpark, a total of $250,000 per year, according to Smith.

    "The team will pay us for their five months and they will also be in charge of maintenance and upkeep at the ballpark," added Smith.

    Besides playing host to the new baseball team, the city has plans to utilize the ballpark for high school and recreation league games as well as concerts and other events.

    According to Smith, the city was willing to pay a little bit extra to have an artificial turf field put in instead of grass. "...with turf we can double the amount of days we can use the field, making it available for about 120 days each year," said Smith ...''

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 7-2-08, by SCOT ALLYN, Morning Journal Writer

    ``AVON -- Avon Mayor Jim Smith hosted a formal groundbreaking yesterday [7-1-08] for the city's 3,500-seat baseball stadium off Miller Road by Interstate 90, where a yet-to-be-named Frontier League expansion team will take up residence next summer.

    The site was only a muddy field with a rutted gravel road, construction equipment and trucks, but baseball fans could almost hear the crack of a bat, the roar of the crowd and smell the roasting hot dogs of the 2009 season ...

    The benefits of the project to greater Lorain County were emphasized by speakers including Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee; Matt Perry, chief executive officer of National Sports Services, which is bringing the team to Avon; and Steve Edelson, a Chicago real-estate developer who will be the principal owner of the team.

    Lee said Avon's team will be the 13th in the Frontier League. ''With the interstate access and visibility, this should be a fantastic success,'' Lee said. ''People want to stay close to home, and our motto is 'take the ball park to the people.'''

    He said the Frontier League is in the dinner theater business. ''We feed people and give them three hours of entertainment, which happens to be a baseball game.'' Lee said game tickets would cost around $10. Perry said National Sports Services, which is based in Topeka, Kan., is eager to join the Lorain County community.

    Last month, Smith entered into a 15-year lease agreement with National Sports Services. The company will pay the city $50,000 a month for five months, but takes care of maintenance throughout the year. In addition, the team will own naming rights to the stadium for the lease period, Smith said.

    After the groundbreaking, Edelson said several factors contributed to his interest in owning a baseball team in Avon.

    ''First, the Greater Cleveland market is one of the best, in terms of corporate, government and community support,'' he said. ''They got back a football team they lost, and there is a lot of development here. Second, the site is fabulous. Third, Mayor Smith had the courage and foresight to make this key piece of real estate a center for youth and family activity by funding this project.''

    Avon voters approved a 0.25-percent income tax last November to fund the baseball stadium and YMCA recreation center. Avon City Council accepted a $10.9-million bid last month from Infinity Construction Co., of Warrensville Heights, to build the stadium.

    [Avon City Council approved a $10.9 million bid June 16, 2008, from the Infinity Group of Warrensville Heights to build the stadium on about 9 acres. The site is being graded, and sewers, water lines and roads are being built for the stadium and a 65,000-square-foot YMCA recreation center next door The stadium will include parking for 1,500 vehicles and offer an additional 1,500 lawn seats on mounds surrounding the outfield.]

    Jim Fantozzi, vice president of operations for Infinity Construction Co., said the company hopes to have a roof up by January 2009, and have the field installed by April or May. Topsoil was stripped away from the field yesterday [7-1-08], and clay is being spread over the area, Smith said.

    Fantozzi said the field is already at correct grade level, but the seating and concourse area of the stadium will have to be raised 7 to 8 feet, using 12,000 cubic yards of fill dirt ...

    Groundbreaking for a 65,000-square-foot YMCA recreation center, to be built near the stadium, is expected in August, Smith said. The YMCA is scheduled to be open in December 2009, and an indoor hockey skating rink and an indoor baseball training facility will follow.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 7-2-08, by Stephen Szucs

    ``City, league officials break ground on ambitious baseball complex

    AVON -- This time next year, travelers along Interstate 90 in Avon will see a red brick, 5,000-seat stadium booming with baseball.

    Avon Mayor Jim Smith was joined Tuesday [7-1-08] by Frontier League representatives and developers for the official groundbreaking on the new city-owned stadium, a project nearly three years in the making ... [and] packaged with a YMCA-operated recreation center ... The 67,200-square-foot rec center will have its own groundbreaking ceremony in August [2008].

    A brand-new Frontier League expansion team will call the stadium home and will be among 12 other teams in the league that includes the Traverse City Beach Bums and the River City Rascals.

    Naming the new team will be left to the community, said Matt Perry, a partner in the team's investment group, Avon Ballpark LLC.

    "We'll have a public 'name the team' contest that'll be focused on a regional type of name," he said. "We want people from Elyria and Lorain and western Cuyahoga County to feel like this is their team."

    Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee said people should expect a 'dinner theater' type of experience when they come to the ballpark -- one where they can eat while being entertained. Combine that entertainment with visibility of and accessibility to I-90, Perry said, and fans will come out in droves ... Tickets will cost about $10, and fans can sit in one of the 3,500 stadium seats, or one of the 1,500 lawn seats.

    Even though the left field foul line can now only be traced along a northern span of remaining trees, Avon resident Tim Mitchell said he's impressed with what he's seen and with what?s slated to come.

    "I've lived in Avon my entire life and didn?t realize all this space could get turned into this," he said, with his 6-year-old son Grant by his side. "You drive back here and it just hits you. I'm sure I?ll be a season ticketholder when that opening season rolls around."''

    Contact Stephen Szucs at 329-7129 or sszucs@chroniclet.com.


    Comment from maerd, 7-2-08

    ``To a lot of kids that can't get a chance in one of the other leagues the chance to just play ball: not to mention these kids would probaly rather get 800.00 to 1200.00 a month to play ball than work at home depot. I know the talent for the Captains which are a class a minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians is a lot better. I have not had the chance see the Captains and would like to.

    As far as the Frontier league in Avon goes, I will be able to go there more often just because it is a lot closer and with gas so high I will not be able to afford to go to the east side of Cleveland. There are also players from this league that have made it to the Majors with one of the players being named National Player of the week in his first week with the San Diego Padres.''

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 8-15-08, by ALAN INGRAM, Morning Journal Writer

    [Ryan Gates chosen general manager for Avon Ball club]

    ``AVON -- Ryan Gates, who has experience as a baseball general manager, has been chosen as the general manager for the Frontier League baseball team that will play in Avon next year. The official announcement of Gate's appointment isn't expected until Tuesday morning.

    Gates, formerly the general manager of the West Virginia Power in Charleston, will take the helm of Avon's team, according to minorleaguebaseball.com. The West Virginia Power are the Class ''A'' affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. His resignation from the Power was made public on Aug. 2, according to the Web site.

    Matt Perry, chief executive officer of National Sports Services, did not return a call for comment yesterday. National Sports Services is bringing the team to Avon.

    www.Minorleaguebaseball.com quotes Andy Milovich, executive vice president of the West Virginia Power as saying, ''His understanding of our industry and ability to build meaningful relationships in the community were instrumental to the successful launch of the West Virginia Power and Appalachian Power Park. We will certainly miss his leadership and wish him well in the opportunity to become the face of the new franchise in Avon.''

    Gates took a role as director of business development with the Charleston Alley Cats, the previous name of the West Virginia Power, in April 2004. He later assumed the general manager's job, according to the Web site.

    ''He led the team to a third consecutive attendance record in 2007 and established himself as one of the leading general managers in the industry,'' the Web site stated ...''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 8-15-08, by The Chronicle-Telegram Staff

    ``AVON -- The city's new Frontier League team has found a minor league baseball general manager to head up its new franchise.

    Ryan Gates, former general manager of the West Virginia Power, a MLB Single A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, resigned from that organization Aug. 2 to take over as the new boss of the yet unnamed Avon team, according to a minor league baseball media release.

    Gates has worked in minor league baseball management for the past six years and led the West Virginia Power to its third consecutive attendance record last year ...

    The new Frontier League expansion team's home field will be the new 5,000-seat stadium that is being built at Interstate 90 and state Route 611.

    The team will be one of 13 teams in the league, which includes the Traverse City Beach Bums and the River City Rascals. Its season opener will be in May 2009.

    Matt Perry, a partner in the team's investment group, Avon Ballpark LLC, has said naming the team will be left up to the community.''

    Contact Stephen Szucs at sszucs@chroniclet.com.


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 8-20-08, by Stephen Szucs

    [General manager has big plans for Avon's ball team]

    ``AVON -- The new Frontier League stadium is just beginning to take shape, but franchise General Manager Ryan Gates can already hear the stadium noise resonating throughout the county.

    Gates was officially introduced during a press conference Tuesday [8-19-08] at Avon City Hall. He had previously been general manager for the minor League's West Virginia Power, which plays in the South Atlantic League.

    If there's one thing he knows, he said, it's building baseball from the ground up and making sure everyone involved enjoys the ride. "The beauty of this is that we're starting from scratch," he said ...

    Gates served as the Power's general manager for two years and oversaw the daily operations of the franchise -- a Class A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers -- including rebranding the team and preparing the franchise to play in a new stadium in 2005.

    He also led the Power to its third consecutive attendance record last year. "With his background and demeanor, he will be a great asset to our organization and the community," said Steven Edelson, a Chicago real-estate developer who is principal owner of the team.

    In the coming weeks, Gates will announce the team's head coach, and he and Matt Perry -- a partner in the team's investment group, Avon Ballpark LLC -- will continue meeting with businesses for possible sponsorships, including naming rights for the stadium.

    A brand-new Frontier League expansion team will call the stadium home and will be among 12 other teams in the league that includes the Traverse City Beach Bums and the River City Rascals. Construction crews have already poured the concrete dugouts in the stadium along Interstate 90 and state Route 611.

    Tickets for games, set to start in May 2009, will cost about $10, and fans can sit in one of the 3,500 stadium seats, or one of the 1,500 lawn seats.

    The team will be named by fans. Details will be announced ...''

    Contact Stephen Szucs at sszucs@chroniclet.com.


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 8-20-08,

    By CHANDA NEELY, cneely@MorningJournal.com

    ``AVON -- Ryan Gates, who was officially named general manager of Avon's new Frontier League professional baseball franchise yesterday, said he already has plans in the works to promote the team.

    Over the next two to three weeks, the franchise will be hiring 12 full-time staff members and eight to 10 interns.

    "We're going to hit the ground running over the next couple of weeks," Gates said. "You're going to start hearing exciting announcements about growing staff, contests to name the team and season ticket sales ..."

    Avon is building a 3,500 seat stadium off Miller Road by Interstate 90 to be open for the 2009 season. In June [2008], the city entered into a 15-year lease agreement with National Sports Services in which NSS will pay the city $50,000 a month for five months and take care of the stadium maintenance throughout the year.

    Steven Edelson, principal owner of the team said, "We are pleased to bring Ryan on board as general manager for this new Avon franchise. With his background and demeanor, he will be a great asset to our organization and the community."

    Gates has worked as the general manager for the West Virginia Power, an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers which operates in Charleston, West Virginia ...

    From 2004 to 2006, Gates was director of business development for the Power, where he was instrumental in overseeing daily operations of the franchise, re-branding the team and preparing the franchise to play in a new stadium in 2005.

    "He's been involved in the start-up of a new stadium in Charleston, so he's got that experience and background, which we are very pleased to have someone that's been through that before," Avon Mayor Jim Smith said. "He's done the same thing in Erie (Pa.) when he was in Erie with the affiliated team there and Ryan has a keen understanding of what it takes to run a successful operation."''

    Baseball 2007

    Top -- Home


    [Avon Professional Baseball hopes to unveil the results of the naminmg contest before Thanksgiving]

    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-22-08, By ALAN INGRAM, aingram@MorningJournal.com

    ``Avon picks top choices for new pro team name

    AVON -- Baseball fans now have an idea of who they'll root, root, root for when they head out to a ball game in Avon next summer.

    The list of possible names for the Frontier League team that will begin play in Avon next year is down to five -- the Ohio Groove, the Lorain County Ironmen, the Avon Red Tails, the Cleveland Artichokes and the Lake Erie Crushers. Fans can vote for the team name at www.avonprobaseball.com/namevote.html beginning this morning.

    An end date for the contest has not yet been determined, said Nicolle Meyer, director of Community and Media Relations for Avon Professional Baseball. The Morning Journal is sponsoring the Name the Team Contest.

    "The community's response has been incredible," APB [Avon Professional Baseball] General Manager Ryan Gates said in a press release. "Fans put a lot of thought into their entries. Not only were many of the names extremely creative, but fans also took the time to explain the name's significance to the region, providing valuable insight in to the history and culture of the area that we can incorporate into our overall brand. Thanks to the wide pool of names, we were able to select the very best of the best."

    The initial phase of the naming contest drew 817 entries, Meyer said. There were some entries that repeated, even when it came to the finalists.

    While only one person suggested the Ohio Groove and Cleveland Artichokes, two people suggested the Lake Erie Crushers, four people suggested the Avon Red Tails and five people suggested the Lorain County Ironmen.

    According to information from Avon Professional Baseball, the Ohio Groove name symbolizes Cleveland's rock and roll history and the glacial grooves at Kelleys Island. The Lake Erie Crushers recognizes the vineyards in Lorain County and crushing grapes to make wine.

    The Avon Red Tails name is in honor of the red tail hawk that is around Lorain County and near the team's new stadium at Interstate 90 and SR 611. The Lorain County Ironmen name would recognize Lorain County's industrial history.

    The name Cleveland Artichokes symbolizes that the area has soil that is good for growing vegetables.

    The committee that selected the finalists' names included the team's front office staff and the owners' family and children. Input was also gathered from local community members and organizations, Meyer said.

    "The winner is going to receive a fantastic prize package of tickets and merchandise, and they will be recognized at a home game next summer," she said.

    If the chosen name was suggested by more than one person, they will not all get a prize package, Meyer said. A random drawing was conducted, so only one person will get credit for the name.

    Avon Professional Baseball hopes to unveil the results of the contest, as well as the logo, before Thanksgiving [2008], she said. Plan B Branding will start design concepts for all five of the team name finalists.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Sun, 10-9-08

    ``A PLACE IN THE SUN: All-star staff lining up for Avon pro baseball

    Excitement is building for the new professional baseball team that will be calling Avon home next year.

    At the top of the "batting order" are Ryan Gates, general manager, and Steven Edelson, team owner. They've been assembling a front office staff.

    Among the "players" are Nicolle Meyer, director of community and media relations, who moved to Avon after working in community relations for the Detroit Pistons NBA team and the WNBA Detroit Shock. She also has experience with the Frontier League.

    Kevin Disbrow, a former Sun News account representative, joins the team as a corporate sales representative.

    Avon resident Derek Stapinski, who interned with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and worked for the Cleveland Indians, is an account representative. Also signing on as an account rep is Zach Krantz, who relocated from Chicago.

    Avon Professional Baseball is the newest expansion team of the Frontier League, an independent professional league with 12 teams located throughout the Midwest. Its inaugural season begins in May [2008] in a new 5,000-plus capacity stadium under construction at the intersection of Interstate 90 and State Route 611 in Avon.

    The team is operating out of the Avon Pointe Campus until its facilities are completed.

    For more information on the team, call Meyer at (440) 934-3636.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-8-08, By SCOT ALLYN sallyn@MorningJournal.com

    ``AVON -- Avon's yet-to-be-named Frontier League baseball team has hired office staff to help it move one step closer to stepping up to the plate next spring. General Manager Ryan Gates and Field Manager John Massarelli were joined last week by a communications director and sales staff, as the contest to pick a team name gained momentum and ticket sales are set to begin in about a week.

    Nicolle Meyer, director of community and media relations, said she was hired from the Detroit Pistons, where she worked in community relations. Meyer said her resume includes work for the Detroit Shock, a Women's National Basketball Association team and two Frontier League teams, the Traverse City (Mich.) Beach Bums and the Windy City Thunderbolts, based on the south side of Chicago.

    Kevin Disbrow was hired as a corporate sales representative, to create corporate sponsorships for the team. He will be meeting with local businesses to create custom sponsorship packages, including outfield banners, theme nights and other options.

    Derek Stapinski and Zach Krantz joined as account representatives. Stapinski worked for the Cleveland Indians and Krantz came from the Chicago area, Meyer said. Stapinski and Krantz will work on season and group ticket sales.

    "In a week we'll be launching season tickets sales," Meyer said. "Baseball fans can reserve a spot on the priority seating list, which will include suites, box seats, field box seats and terrace tables along the concourse."

    With these hirings, the team's immediate needs have been met, according to Meyer.

    Ticket prices have not be formally set yet, but a season pass for the box seats will be under $400, Meyer said.

    The naming contest, which got underway Monday at the team's Web site, www.avonprobaseball.com, has drawn good entries, according to Meyer.

    "We've had some good names coming in, and people are having a lot of fun with it," she said. "We've gotten some jokes, and some people have put a lot of thought into it." To submit your entry, visit the team's Web site by Oct. 20. The winning entry takes home a prize pack of tickets and merchandise.

    A team name, mascot and logo will be announced in November [2008], she said.

    Massarelli will be scouting players throughout the off-season and signing them up through the beginning of May, when Spring training starts, Meyer said.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-5-08,

    ``You can start playing Name the Team Contest Monday [10-6-08]

    The Morning Journal on Monday will help kick off the Avon Professional Baseball Name the Team Contest for the area's new Frontier League expansion franchise.

    The Morning Journal is the official media partner of the contest, which is reaching out to readers to decide what name will appear on the players' jerseys when the team takes the field this spring.

    Starting Monday, fans will be able to submit their team name ideas online at the team's Web site, www.avonprobaseball.com. All suggestions must be submitted by Oct. 20, at which time the top five to 10 names will be posted on the team Web site for fans to vote on their favorites. The official unveiling of the team name and logo will take place in November.

    The fan with the winning entry will win a prize pack of tickets and merchandise and will be recognized at a home game next summer. The team will open its inaugural season in May 2009, in a brand-new 5,000-plus capacity stadium located at the intersection of Interstate 90 and SR 611. Season tickets go on sale Oct. 15.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-17-08, By ALAN INGRAM aingram@MorningJournal.com

    ``Avon's pro team will 'play ball' on June 2 [2009]

    AVON -- Let the countdown to professional baseball in Avon begin.

    The first cry of "Play ball!" at a Frontier League baseball game at the still under construction Avon baseball stadium is only 228 days away, as Avon Professional Baseball announced its 2009 home season begins June 2. The team will square off against defending Frontier League Champions, the Windy City ThunderBolts of Illinois.

    "I think come June 2 we're going to have one heck of a celebration out here," General Manager Ryan Gates said yesterday. The game will be in the evening, but the exact time has not yet been determined.

    The team, whose name will be chosen through a contest sponsored by The Morning Journal, will play 51 home games next summer, with at least one three-game series against each of the 11 other teams in the Frontier League. The team's season will actually start on May 22, with an away game at the Washington Wild Things in Pennsylvania.

    "The way (the) schedule is laid out, fans will have the opportunity to see all the teams in the league at least once during the season," said team Field Manager John Massarelli. "In addition, the extra games played between divisional teams should create some great rivalries and exciting competition on the ball field."

    Festivities for the June 2 [2009] home opener haven't been finalized yet, Gates said, adding, "We're going to do it right."

    Gates said they're hoping to have a fireworks show, a fly over, special giveaways and a special ticket for the inaugural game, but said none of those have been finalized.

    Avon Mayor Jim Smith also said there would be festivities for the opening game, yet to be named. "There'll be a lot of first pitches thrown out," he said.

    Gates said he expects a "standing room only" crowd at the more than 5,000 person-capacity stadium at Interstate 90 and SR 611.

    The team's 2009 schedule includes nine Friday home games and 11 Saturday home games. The team will also play at home for the July 4 weekend. Avon's team will play in the six-team Eastern Division of the Frontier League.

    The team will bring more people to the area and allow them to spend their entertainment money locally, Smith said.

    "It's an economic and an entertainment positive for the whole area, and it's the start of what I would hope to be a very successful recreation area in the city and in the county," he said. Gates said he thinks the team will draw people from Cuyahoga County as well ...

    The Avon franchise has some players it is targeting, but haven't signed any to an official contract yet, Gates said. He added he doesn't want to announce any players until they have a name for the team. "I want those players to be part of our new identity," he said.

    The contest to name the team will continue through 11:59 p.m. Monday [10-20-08] on the team's Web site, www.avonprobaseball.com/namevote.html A group of eight to 10 finalists will be presented to the community and the fans will choose the name of the team.

    When Gates checked yesterday morning, more than 750 entries had been submitted and last night said he wouldn't be surprised if that number was more than 800.

    "The response has been outstanding," he said.''



    A letter from GM Ryan Gates

    ``Dear Fans,

    With the first pitch of professional baseball in Lorain County only eight months away, construction of our state-of-the-art stadium is moving at a rapid pace. Located at the intersection of I-90 and Route 611, the 5,000+ capacity stadium will include a variety of features to enhance the fan experience. Whether comfortably seated in a private suite, settled at a terrace table on the concourse or up close and personal in a box seat, fans of all ages will be able to enjoy a quality game of professional baseball and family entertainment in a beautiful new stadium right in our back yard.

    Spring may seem a ways away, but with the big plans the team has for the upcoming months, the time will fly by. Starting in October, fans can be a part of the action by participating in a "Name the Team" manager and coaching staff, followed by updates throughout the off-season as players are signed and the team begins to take shape. Suites and sponsorship opportunities are available now and season tickets will go on sale to the public in mid October. Stay tuned for details.

    You can be a part of the excitement by visiting our website for the latest information on team news, promotions and events. We hope you enjoy our website and are as excited as we are to welcome professional baseball to Lorain County and the surrounding region.

    Your friend in baseball,

    Ryan Gates, General Manager, Avon Professional Baseball''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-19-08, By JASON LLOYD jlloyd@MorningJournal.com

    ``A new frontier: Owner says Avon baseball team "built for success"

    STEVEN Edelson was a White Sox fan even before he had to be. He grew up in Chicago watching the Cubs by day and the Sox at night. Over time, he grew to love the Sox.

    Then his sister married Michael Reinsdorf, son of White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

    "Part of our business has involved the White Sox," Edelson said. "I'm a White Sox fan today. I am absolutely a White Sox fan, and the only time I root against the Cubs is when they play the White Sox."

    Edelson worked with Michael Reinsdorf to purchase a minor-league hockey team in Iowa five years ago. They enjoyed so much success, Edelson is branching out into baseball. He is the new majority owner of the independent Frontier League team that begins play in Avon in 2009.

    Ryan Gates is in place as the general manager. Akron native John Massarelli is the new manager after leading the Washington Wild Things, also of the Frontier League, to the playoffs each of the last four years. The stadium is going up just off Interstate 90.

    "We're built for success," Edelson said.

    Edelson sat down for a Q&A with The Morning Journal, covering a wide variety of topics ranging from his start as a minor league owner to his vision for the Avon franchise.

    QUESTION: What got you interested in minor league baseball and independent baseball?

    ANSWER: We had owned the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, which is a USHL hockey team. Having a very good experience after bit of a rocky start, we had been looking at economics of other sports teams. One of our primary businesses is a company called International Facilities Group, which I would say is one of the leading development advisors for sports and entertainment facilities in the world, since we've consulted on two baseball facilities in Taiwan and we were members of the Beijing Olympic selection committee which selected contractors for the last Olympics.

    Q: Why Avon?

    A: We had been looking for some time at municipalities and facilities throughout the country that were really good fits. The markets made sense and economics made sense. Matt Perry from National Sports Services had brought an opportunity to myself and my brother-in-law, Michael Reinsdorf, in Avon.

    When we looked at Ohio, we looked at Cleveland. If you take a look at the market, Cleveland is one of the best sports markets in the United States. If you pull out what I call the big three — Chicago, New York and L.A. — it's one of the top, if not the top in the country for corporate responsibility, social responsibility and for support from both of those areas. We have family who lives here, so I've been here a number of times and I've done business in Ohio. So I knew about market, we saw what went on with Browns, we watched the support they got for the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and many other things.

    There was political change coming with a new governor, and then I was lucky enough to meet (Avon) Mayor Jim Smith. He is a very dynamic individual and someone who's into what he's doing.

    When you look at the factors, you have an incredibly dynamic market, a very good surrounding area, a fabulous location right on the highway and access to the things we have access to, it made all the sense in the world to put a minor league baseball team here.

    Now since we got involved in Avon, my brother-in-law has since bought an affiliated Double-A team, so he can no longer be involved in this and I can no longer be involved in that.

    Q: Why are these independent Frontier League teams so successful?

    A: Virtually like anything else that you start out with, it's how you set the tone. The face of the team outside of the off-field staff, the most important employees that the public sees are the players.

    The players are typically still trying to make it to the major leagues. They're here because they love the game, they've made sacrifices to be here and they appreciate the fans.

    Typically fans will drive within 60 miles, and they want to be part of the experience. So then you have to take it one step further to say how does ownership feel? Do they care about that? This ownership group absolutely cares about wanting to be part of the community. We've been running a name the team contest, we have no preconceived notions. We are truly looking for someone to come up with names.

    It's important to us because you do a lot of local advertising, you do lot of regional advertising and you want to be a regional draw. So we need to be part of this region, and the best way to do that is ingrain yourself in the local fabric of this community, but also the entire area.

    We should be drawing from the 500,000 people in this region between Lorain and Cuyahoga County. Not that all 500,000 could fit in our ballpark, but we would like as many people to experience what we're doing and build a season-ticket base, a corporate base, an advertising base, a sponsorship base. So people come into our facility and say 'Hey Dad, there's your sign.' Things that are from this area, but they're national, they're regional and they're local.

    It all depends on how you do it, but with the help of Matt Perry, we've been able to assemble — starting at the top with Ryan Gates and then starting on the field side with John Massarelli — what I think is the best team of people in minor league sports. For sure baseball. If you look at the resumes of people we've hired already, they all come from the Pistons, the Cavaliers for the excitement of starting something brand new.

    I think that's important. I think we have a better chance of being part of the fabric of this community than had we bought an existing team (and moved it here).

    Everything is new. Everything is from the beginning. If you have an idea and it comes into these offices, it's being considered. It's not, "We've done this for 10 years and you need an earthquake to make something move."

    We have young, dynamic people here, mostly from this region. Their concern and their reputations are looking to be moved forward as well. It's an exciting time to be part of something brand new like this in what we'll call in a mature market. How often do you get that chance?

    Avon is the fastest growing city within the state of Ohio right now ... Example after example shows how excited the community is, and the quality of people we've hired shows the level of excitement for people from an industry wanting to be part of something new and from the ground floor.

    In addition to our ballpark, there is a YMCA here. We're hoping for a hotel, we're hoping for hockey. He's going to do baseball, softball and soccer. So this is going to be a significant regional draw. The mayor is forward thinking in that he's shooting for same things we're shooting for. When you have the public sector and the private sector trying to obtain the same goal and working together, which we are, you have a very good chance of succeeding. Which we both are. His park is going up and our team is formed.

    Q: Did you consider Lorain at all and The Pipe Yard?

    A: No. We're incredibly excited to be part of a dynamic and municipality like Avon that also shares a national reputation for being one of the fastest growing communities in the country. It's in the top 56 in the country, I believe, and No. 1 in the state of Ohio.

    Q: Avon seems to be a great location for you just because it's upper middle class and full of young families.

    A: It's upwardly mobile people, and the ticket pricing that we have, we're building this so that there's nobody who can't afford it. We want children to be able to come, dropped off, we want them to come with their grandparents, parents, or just their friends. It's affordable for teams, Little League and high schools. We plan on doing a lot of marketing to rivalries between schools, where we may want to have a tug-of-war between football teams. Just fun things that you can do if they're properly planned.

    Q: Are you at all concerned that the stadium won't be ready in time for the season?

    A: It'll be there. We're not going with grass, it will be FieldTurf. That is a big advantage for us, because with FieldTurf and with draining, outside of torrential downpours, we should have very few rained out games. It helps on the maintenance costs. The presentation is really nice. The longevity of it is terrific. What it also allows you to do is program the building for other events. Concerts, family shows ... the team will work to bring the best talent if possible. There are still plenty of shows that go in 5,000 seat parks.

    Q: What about something like the OHSAA baseball state playoffs?

    A: Love to have them. We're responsible for generating as much activity at this park as we can. Because we have good scheduling people, we'll be able to work with high school and Little Leagues. If we could accommodate Little Leagues, I'd have to think children would be thrilled to play on minor league fields. I plan to have the team very involved in the local Little League and the surrounding community Little Leagues.

    Q: How hard is it to sell an independent minor league team as opposed to an affiliated team? In Lake County, fans can see Fausto Carmona in Single-A and follow his rise through the system and to the Indians. That's not the case with independent baseball.

    A: You first have to understand who you're playing to, who you're catering to. You're catering to people who love baseball, who will follow statistics of any team they're watching.

    You're catering to families for family entertainment, where you're looking at the same dollar that may go to dinner or go see a movie or go to one of these Dave & Buster type places.

    You want to put the best product you can with the best food you can and the best fan experience. It has to be fun from the time you get out of your car until the kids tell the parents they don't want to leave. And it has to be entertaining for the parents so they want to come back with the kids and it is an enjoyable experience more than a chore.

    That's what you strive for, and then you strive to put the best players on the field that you can. That's why we hired John Massarelli, who is the best. When you do that, you're putting ball players who are top quality ball players and have another dimension. That dimension is interaction with the fans, with potential fans and building relationships.

    In Cedar Rapids, where we have a USHL team, the goal there is for children to get Division I scholarships. After Saturday night games, the fans skate with the team. They meet the players, the players are housed in the community, they become part of the fabric of the community. We have a fabulous relationship with the community that starts with senior management, to the coach right on down to the players.

    In some places where we play away games, we have more games than the home team. Every year, we've been the platform for a lot of children to go to college and some into the NHL post college.

    That's how we plan to do it here, too. We plan to have people get instruction from some of these players, to follow these players, and you'll see. There's two aspects: baseball and entertainment. So the more you can make your baseball better and your entertainment more fun, the better you'll do. Especially with your pricing structure.

    Q; Why do you love owning these minor league teams so much?

    A: I like being around it. It has many types of rewards, it has financial rewards, it has social rewards, it has community rewards. And it has family rewards because my children like it more than I do. And my wife is very involved in this as well.

    It's a natural business for us to be in because of IFG and because of my brother-in-law being around. Having access to a lot of the information we have access to because of Michael and his father, I would say some counseling from his father helps a lot.

    Q: Does the current state of the economy help you, hurt you or have no impact?

    A: We're affordable entertainment in any environment. We, as a community, are in an unfortunate position because of the state of the financial markets. However, while we are sympathetic because we live in it and we're apart of it, that drives us harder to give a better value.

    Q: What did you like about Ryan Gates?

    A: Ryan is a young, seasoned baseball executive who went to school for this and then worked in the industry for a number of years. He's performed every function that we needed filled as a team in the past, and he has always exceeded the goals that have been set for him.

    As a newlywed, it's a benefit to us to have him move to Avon, to the community, and have his family as his family grows, hopefully grow with the success of the team. That's important because he's growing up with a new team and with a new family. Ryan in essence is really building two families — one at home and one at the ballpark.

    Q: A recent study by National Sports Service indicated that an important benchmark is 60 percent advance sales for all teams. Can you get to that point by May or is that something you're even concerned about?

    A: We'd like to get there. We'd like to get past that. We'd like this to be past the 60 percent because of the price point and the value. So we're shooting to beat that number and we'd certainly love it if the community helps us get there.

    Think about it, if you're shooting for 60 percent of 5,000, that's 3,000. Out of an immediate market of 500,000 people, with a $9 and a $6 price point ...

    Q: You said earlier Lorain County and Cuyahoga County. Is that essentially your target areas?

    A: I'd like to go as far (west) as Sandusky. Maybe Tommy Boy would come back and come to a game. We could sell him some brake pads. (Laughs).

    I don't want to rule out east. It's a regional thing. Most people are saying you're not going to go east because the Indians are there. However, as I said, people will drive 60 miles. Let's just say within that 60 miles, maybe it's 30 miles. Draw a line. So we'll have a lot of fish from the lake, but all kidding aside, if you go the other way, they're from all over.

    I'd love people from the east to come here as well and be part of this. Massarelli has won this league several times. He's put great teams on the field. He's an exciting guy, he's from Akron, so he's from the area. He has a teaching academy, he played pro ball. Our players are certainly willing to go to Beachwood High and the feeder schools and Shaker and places in those neighborhoods every bit as they're wiling to go to Avon.

    Q: How much trepidation did you have getting into hockey the first time, and are any of those fears eased now that you have been through this once before?

    A: Let me tell you why we went to hockey. The hockey team is owned in a fund that was created by myself, Michael Reinsdorf and Nathaniel Kramer. We like to invest in businesses where we can help where our relationships and our knowledge base can help businesses grow.

    The premise was that with the knowledge base of Michael's father and Michael's ability to gain knowledge from the White Sox and Bulls, and the advertising areas and sponsorships and ticket sales and all of the revenue and cost areas, we could translate some of that down into a minor league team under the premise that minor league teams weren't run with the sophistication and staffs of a major league team. That's not to say the people aren't every bit as intelligent, there's just more available to a major league team. You have smart people at both levels.

    But if you have ability to draw on the major leagues, we felt we could be possibly more successful than people who didn't have access to those things. That's why we invested on the other team.

    Having said that, I wouldn't use the word trepidation. We're looking for markets where you have the dynamics of what we found in Avon. We're able to do a similar thing in Avon with the knowledge that we have and the continuous consultation of Matt Perry and National Sports Service, there's no trepidation. It's 'Did you do your homework well enough before you start investing?' We're a good seven figures into this, so I hope so ... We're built for success."''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 10-22-08, Jason Hawk, The Chronicle-Telegram

    ``Names winnowed for Avon ballclub

    AVON -- Sluggers from the new Frontier League expansion baseball team could trot out onto the field next spring as the Ohio Groove, Lorain County Ironmen, Avon Red Tails, Cleveland Artichokes or the Lake Erie Crushers.

    Those are the top five, or shall we say four real and one pretend, finalists in the Avon Professional Baseball 'Name the Team? contest. They were chosen from more than 800 entries that rolled in over the past two weeks.

    "The community's response has been incredible," said Ryan Gates, the team's general manager. ?Fans put a lot of thought into their entries. Not only were many of the names extremely creative, but fans also took the time to explain the name's significance to the region, providing valuable insight into the history and culture of the area that we can incorporate into our overall brand."

    The contest was open to people all over the state, but team spokeswoman Nicolle Meyer said the finalists came from Avon, Avon Lake, Lorain, Elyria and Amherst.

    Meyer said one of the final names is clearly a joke.

    "We did throw one silly name in there that might not really be so much in the running," she said. "But if you put Artichokes right next to some of the other names, though, it might make you think more seriously about which name sounds better."

    It's unlikely you?ll ever see a baseball cap with an artichoke stitched on the front, or a dancing artichoke mascot on the baseline, she said.

    An all-star roster of local residents worked with the team's ownership and office staff to narrow the ideas down to those with the most marketing potential and regional appeal.

    Meyer said marketing potential is an important part of choosing a new team name.

    "Is this going to give us a really fun logo that people can wear on their T-shirts and hats'? she said. ?It?s got to be an image that people can have a lot of fun with."

    Paul LaFarciola of Avon said he suggested the Avon Red Tails because he often sees red-tail hawks circling in the sky near his house.

    "They're all over the place," he said. ?They?re predators, and they're known for taking prey in their talons. If the team has strength and is aggressive, they'll win; and most of the time, the hawk wins."

    Cindy Shairba of Elyria came up with the Lorain County Ironmen, saying it's a tribute to the county?s steel workers.

    "Sometimes you have to really fight hard, and everybody plays a big role in coming up with the end product," she said. 'That?s true for both people who work in the steel mills and baseball players."

    Plan B Branding is beginning preliminary design concepts for each of the names, according to a press release from Avon Professional Baseball. The firm will be tasked with designing a logo, mascot and uniform around the name chosen.

    Fans can read more about the origins of the names at


    and starting today can cast votes for their favorite name. The votes will be a huge part in the ownership's final decision, which could be made around Thanksgiving at the earliest, Meyer said.

    Whatever the name, the team will open its inaugural season June 2 in a new stadium built to hold more than 5,000 spectators. The stadium is under construction at Interstate 90 and state Route 611.

    For more information on tickets, promotions and team news, visit the team's Web site or call (440) 934-3636.

    Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.


    Five names submitted by residents are at the top of the list for Avon's new Frontier League team:

    Ohio Groove: The name Ohio Groove reflects Cleveland?s history of rock 'n? roll. The upbeat tone of the name is supposed to jive with a fun atmosphere.

    Lake Erie Crushers: This tough and macho baseball name pays homage to Lorain County's vineyards and the crushing of grapes to make wine.

    Avon Red Tails: The red tail hawk is seen throughout Lorain County. This dominating bird of prey is often seen along Interstate 90 right next to the stadium.

    Cleveland Artichokes: The northeastern part of the county is known for its great soil, perfectly suited for growing vegetables. Artichokes have purple flowers so the team colors could be green and purple.

    Lorain County Ironmen: The name recalls the county's industrial heritage, paying tribute to the foundry workers that sustained the economy for generations.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 10-23-08, by Jason Hawk

    ``There's no place like home plate in Avon

    AVON -- It was just a marker wrapped with tape and sticking out of the mud, but it made Mayor Jim Smith grin.

    "This is home plate, I'm pretty sure," he said.

    Hard-hat-wearing construction workers swarmed around the marker, molding clay, Rebar and concrete into the shape of Avon's new baseball stadium where a Frontier League team will throw out its first pitch June 2.

    The team doesn't have a name yet, but spokeswoman Nicolle Meyer said she expects to know around Thanksgiving whether it will be called the Woollies, the Walleyes, the Groove, the Ironmen, the Red Tails, the Artichokes or the Crushers.

    Meanwhile, Mark Vega, project manager for Infinity Construction, said the baseball field is about 40 percent finished.

    He said he expects structural steel framing to start going up and the main concrete road to be poured next week, with the concourse roof being built in December.

    Already, the block walls of the clubhouse are nearly complete, towers for elevator access to second-floor loges and office space jut into the sky, and terraced concrete pads have been poured for 3,500 seats.

    Workers will start installing those seats in the next two weeks, Smith said, and there's room for 1,500 more lawnchairs on a grassy hill overlooking left field. He said there's enough space at the 15-acre park site to install another 2,500 seats if needed.

    Turf will be laid in March, with a tentative completion date of May 1, Smith said.

    "I want this place to be used at least 150 nights a year," he said, listing off ideas for fireworks shows, festivals and concerts that could be held in the stadium.

    "Whether it's the Beach Boys or Willie Nelson coming in, what you need to be profitable is to fill 6,000 seats and you have a really good time on your hands."

    There are 300,000 people living within a 15-minute drive of the park, Smith said. But the stadium will also be a big draw for out-of-county tourists, and he said he wants to see a hotel built over the right field fence so visitors will stay overnight and patronize Avon restaurants and shopping centers.

    Outside the ballpark, another 100 undeveloped acres are ripe for investment. Smith said he wants to see it grow into a 'mall for sports' with sports physicians, training facilities and even sporting goods stores.

    He said talks are also ongoing to bring an indoor baseball training center to the site, but no contractual agreement has been reached.

    Bids are due Wednesday [10-29-08] for the 67,000-square-foot French Creek YMCA, which will be built next to the baseball stadium. Smith said he expects ground to break on the recreation center in November. Plans for the $14.2 million YMCA include basketball courts and two swimming pools.

    "Everybody was looking at this as a truck stop, and we couldn't do that anymore," Smith said, referencing a Pilot truck stop for which the intersection is known. "We knew we had to do something different." ''

    Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.

    Filed by Jason Hawk,

    The Chronicle-Telegram October 23rd, 2008


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 10-23-08, by Jason Hawk

    ``Two more names were added to the list Wednesday for the new Frontier League baseball team in Avon.

    The Woollies and the Walleyes were added to the list, which already included the Groove, the Ironmen, the Red Tails, the Artichokes and the Crushers.

    Fans can read more about the regional significance of each and vote for their favorite name on the team's Web site,


    "Initially we chose to narrow the list down to five names," said Ryan Gates, the team's general manager. "But due to initial fan feedback, we felt it was important to include these two additional names based on their popularity during the first round."

    Woollies, or woolly bears, have gained regional popularity thanks to the Woollybear Festival in Vermilion. The caterpillar is celebrated for its mythical association to winter forecasting.

    Walleyes are fish found in Lake Erie named because their eyes reflect light.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-23-08, By ALAN INGRAM, aingram@MorningJournal.com

    ``Walleyes, Woollies added to list of potential pro team names in Avon

    AVON -- Local baseball fans will have substantially more than five names to choose from for the new Frontier League baseball team coming to Avon next summer.

    On Tuesday, Avon Professional Baseball announced that the finalists for the team name were the Ohio Groove, Lorain County Ironmen, Avon Red Tails, Cleveland Artichokes and the Lake Erie Crushers. However, when people went to their Web site, www.avonprobaseball.com, to vote yesterday, they had significantly more options.

    Fans will be able to vote for both a location name, such as Ohio, Lorain County, Avon, Cleveland or Lake Erie, as well as a team name. Besides that, two additional team names are in the mix -- the Walleyes and the Woollies.

    Because voters can mix and match the location name and team name, there are now 35 different team name possibilities. The Name the Team Contest is sponsored by The Morning Journal.

    Team General Manager Ryan Gates said the intention was never to tie a location name to a team name.

    "We should have had them separated from the start," he said. "We wanted to make sure we kept those two separated."

    The Walleyes and Woollies were added into the name mix yesterday, Gates said. Those names were also popular with people who submitted possible names.

    "Looking at it first thing this morning, I felt like we narrowed it down too far," he said.

    The Walleyes would symbolize the popular fish that is native to the area, according to the voting Web site. The Woollies would represent the Woollybear, the caterpillar that is celebrated at the Woollybear Festival in Vermilion.

    Shortly after 5 p.m. yesterday, 250 people had voted, Gates said. People can only vote once, and the contest will run through around Election Day on Nov. 4. The winner won't be announced that same day, however, as the team wants to unveil the logo and team concept at the same time.

    There was a problem with the voting Web site earlier in the day yesterday, when voters were unable to vote for both a location and a team name, but that was corrected by yesterday afternoon.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 10-25-08, By CHANDA NEELY cneely@MorningJournal.com

    ``YMCA construction to begin in Avon soon

    AVON -- Avon residents should see construction on the YMCA project soon.

    Council will have a public hearing before Monday's City Council meeting to approve issuing and selling $6 million in bonds to construct, furnish and equip a municipal recreation facility at SR 611 and Interstate 90.

    Mayor Jim Smith said council also needs to approve a special use permit to put a sign up at the construction site. "Whenever there's a special use permit and a sign going up we always have a public meeting for the people, but no one usually shows up. The sign will just say something like, 'YMCA coming soon.'"

    The public hearing will begin at 7:20 p.m. followed by the council meeting at 7:30.

    Avon voters approved a quarter percent income tax last November to fund the project.

    The 65,000-square-foot YMCA is scheduled to be completed in December 2009. The facility is being designed by Bedford-based Doty & Miller Architects with input from the YMCA of Greater Cleveland.

    The new recreational facility will be called The French Creek YMCA of Avon and will serve all of Lorain County. The facility will be built on a 122-acre site. It will be a cornerstone of the new recreational complex, which will include the minor league baseball stadium and several soccer fields.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-4-08, By CHANDA NEELY cneely@MorningJournal.com

    ``Contractors submit bids for building Avon YMCA

    AVON -- The city could hire a contractor for the French Creek YMCA project as early as this week.

    Avon began accepting bids at 2 p.m. Friday and already at least 33 contractors have submitted bids for the project to build the YMCA recreational complex.

    "More than 30 contractors have showed interest," said Service Director Gerald Plas. "There are 14 general contractors."

    Plas says he hopes to move closer to selecting a contractor as soon as this week.

    "As soon as we can come up with the best and lowest bid, that will be sent to the mayor and council will be copied on it," Plas said. "Hopefully that will be sometime this week."

    The 65,000-square-foot YMCA will be built on a 122-acre site at SR 611 and Interstate 90. The new recreational complex, which will be called The French Creek YMCA of Avon, affiliated with the YMCA of Greater Cleveland and will serve all of Lorain County. The new facility will feature an outside pool, ice rink and indoor soccer facilities.

    The YMCA will be a cornerstone of the recreational complex, which will include the minor league baseball stadium and several soccer fields. The new recreational facility is scheduled to be completed in December 2009.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-7-08, By ALAN INGRAM aingram@MorningJournal.com

    ``Avon baseball team could have official name by Thanksgiving

    AVON -- Approximately 1,500 people cast their vote in the final phase of a contest to name the Frontier League baseball team that will play in Avon next summer.

    The winning name could be announced before Thanksgiving, but team General Manager Ryan Gates said a specific date for the announcement has not yet been set. The voting ended Wednesday morning.

    "We want to make sure we get it right," Gates said, explaining they want to release the team name, logo and concept all at the same time. The uniforms could also be revealed at the same time.

    Voters had five location names and seven team names to choose from during the final part of the contest, which The Morning Journal sponsored. They could select from Ohio, Lorain County, Avon, Cleveland or Lake Erie for the team location name and from the Groove, Ironmen, Red Tails, Artichokes, Crushers, Walleyes and Woollies for the actual team name.

    While Gates did not want to release exact numbers yesterday, he did say the top three vote-getters were very close.

    The participation in the Name the Team Contest "exceeded our expectations," he said. A Southern Atlantic League baseball team in Bowling Green, Ky., had a similar contest that only drew about one-third of the response the Avon team received.


    The team plans to wait to announce any players until after they announce the team name, logo and concept, Gates said. Team officials, however, are closing in on some players and beginning to shape their roster.

    The team plans to begin spring training with about 35 to 40 players, but that will be narrowed to 24 at the end of spring training, Gates said.

    Spring training games will ideally be played at the new baseball stadium being constructed near Interstate 90 and SR 611, he explained. If that's not an option, however, there are other nearby facilities where the games could be played.

    The team could also play some spring training games on the road at other Frontier League sites, but it will stay in the Midwest.''


    NEWS ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 11-22-08, By ALAN INGRAM aingram@MorningJournal.com

    ``Season tickets on sale for new Avon ball club

    AVON -- The time has come to get season tickets for the new Avon baseball team before they're going, going, gone.

    The team is selling three-year and five-year plans for all seats, and one-year plans for select sections of the new 5,000-plus capacity stadium being built at Interstate 90 and SR 611, said Nicolle Meyer, director of Community and Media Relations. Each of the packages features 48 home games at the stadium.

    "We may have some partial season ticket plans, however, we're not going to release those until next spring," Meyer said.

    The schedule also includes three bonus games, and those fans who sign up for season tickets before Jan. 1 will get all 51 games for the same prices as the 48 games, Meyer said.

    The ticket prices have been set, but the final price for the season ticket plans depends on the term and seat location they choose, she explained. The longer the plan, the more the tickets are discounted and the more season ticket benefits fans will receive, she said.

    Prices are not being publicized, Meyer said, because team officials want to talk to fans over the phone or in a sit-down meeting about the various ticket options. Single-game tickets will also be available, and the cost of those will depend on where the seats are located.

    "For the most part, the majority of the individual game tickets will be under $10," she said.

    Season tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on the length of term. Fans who sign up for a five-year term get to choose their seats before those who sign up for a three-year term, she explained.

    The earlier fans sign up and pay a $25 deposit per ticket, the better choice they will have of seats in the stadium, Meyer said.

    "There is not a bad seat in the house to see up and coming professional players. With only nine rows of seats, the ballpark has a very intimate feel," team General Manager Ryan Gates said in a release. "Our goal is to make every night at the ballpark special and unique. With crazy promotions, giveaways, fireworks, music and mascots, every night's a party and now is your time to get on the guest list."

    For more information on tickets, visit

    www.avonprobaseball.com/ or call (440) 934-3636.

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-22-08, by Steve Fogarty

    ``North Ridgeville to share in Avon's ballpark wealth

    NORTH RIDGEVILLE -- The city will see substantial revenue from the new ballpark and regional YMCA being built in nearby Avon.

    North Ridgeville will receive $330,000 in sewer tap-in fees for the $25.5 million commercial project Interstate 90 and state Route 611 in Avon.

    That project features a 5,000-seat Frontier League minor league ballpark.

    Avon officials will decide whether the funds will be paid in one lump sum, or incrementally over a five-year period, Mayor David Gillock said ...

    Smith said his city plans to spread the tap-in fee payments over the five-year period. "This (the 611 project) is a big nut to crack right now, and this way we have a few years to try and get this opened up and operating." Avon will pay roughly $60,000 annually for the tap-in fees.

    North Ridgeville City Council approved legislation this week to accept the sewer tap-in fees, which are used for maintenance and operations of the city's French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

    The $330,000 will pay for Avon to tap into sewer lines running to the plant, which North Ridgeville has owned and operated for many years. The city assumed control of the plant, which is in Sheffield, in the 1970s from the State of Ohio.

    The plant serves Avon and Sheffield, including the Cobblestone Square retail complex and Mike Bass Ford, in addition to the city of North Ridgeville.

    The tap-in fees, which include the $11.3 million ballpark and $14.2 million regional YMCA, are among the largest North Ridgeville has received in recent years.

    St. Mary's of the Woods retirement community on Detroit Road in Avon paid $270,000 in tap-in fees, while the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant at Detroit and I-90 in Sheffield generated about $140,000 in tap-in fees, according to Gillock.

    The ballpark is expected to open in April [2009]. A completion date has not been set for the new YMCA. The complex may include restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

    The ballpark and Y are expected to add about 500,000 gallons of sewage a day to the French Creek plant. The average city home generates about 400 gallons a day, according to Gillock.

    The city currently gets sewer tap-in fees of $6,000 for every new or existing house. Those fees are presently being reviewed to determine if they still meet the city's costs for running the treatment plant. Current fees were based on state EPA standards ...''

    Contact Steve Fogarty at sfogarty@chroniclet.com.

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    NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 11-27-08, by Shaun Bennett

    ``Baseball: Avon expansion team expected to be called Lake Erie Crushers

    AVON -- The new Avon professional baseball team has a name, and it appears the team will be known as the Lake Erie Crushers. Team spokeswoman Nicolle Meyer said Avon Professional Baseball had a winner in the 'Name Your Team' contest that has ran for the last six weeks on their Web site, but she said the official release of the team name won't happen until a news conference at Avon City Hall on Dec. 4 [2008] at 1 p.m.

    But a domain search of all available combinations between the listed locations and mascot names revealed just two possibilities had been procured. LakeErieWalleyes.com is a fishing charter Web site, meaning the new baseball team will probably be known as the Lake Erie Crushers. Avon Pro Baseball purchased the domain name LakeErieCrushers.com on Oct. 17, and will own the rights to the Web site until Oct. 17, 2018, according to GoDaddy.com, Inc.'s WHOIS database.

    According to GoDaddy.com, the domains LakeErieCrushers.net and LakeErieCrushers.org have also been purchased by Avon Pro Baseball. "I'm not sure who purchased the (domain) names out of our front office group, but I don't have a comment at this time," Meyer said.

    The contest, begun on AvonProBaseball.com on Oct. 6, drew over 800 entries from fans. The team's judging panel then whittled the choices down to five location names -- Lake Erie, Cleveland, Avon, Ohio and Lorain County -- and seven mascot titles -- Groove, Crushers, Red Tails, Artichokes, Ironmen, Walleyes and Woolies -- and posted those on their site on Oct. 21 for fans to choose from.

    Although it's uncertain if the second listing of names decided the team's final choice, the contest's official rules said the secondary vote, 'may or may not determine the winner."

    Contact Shaun Bennett at sbennett@chroniclet.com.''

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