The Jacksonville University Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Jacksonville Suns Minor League Baseball team owner and CEO Ken Babby to the board, effective April 29, 2016.
Babby, who took the reins of the First Coast’s longest-tenured sports franchise in September 2015, was named one of Sports Business Journal’s 2016 “Forty Under 40,” recognizing excellence and innovation in sports business careers. At 36, the founder of Fast Forward Sports Group is the youngest multi-team professional sports owner – he purchased his first Minor League Baseball franchise, the Akron RubberDucks, in October 2012.
“Ken has arrived here with so much passion, energy and charisma – his time on our campus has been absolutely electric,” JU President Tim Cost said. “He has the unique ability to connect vocation and avocation into a powerful package. We have a great deal to learn from him in areas that go well beyond professional sports, and we can’t wait to have him join us in the boardroom.”
In his first three seasons as the Akron RubberDucks owner, the franchise set records for biggest year-over-year attendance gains at Canal Park — 11.9 percent in 2013 and 15.7 percent in 2014. In addition, the team drew more than 340,000 fans in each of 2014 and 2015, up from 2012’s total attendance of 256,473.
In revitalizing the franchise, Babby also made more than $6 million in personal investments for improvements to Canal Park that included the largest HD videoboard in Double-A (fifth-largest in Minor League Baseball), a high-end, full-service Grill and Bar, and four new premium party areas.
Babby has undertaken major steps to revamp the fan experience in Jacksonville as well, including lowering ticket prices, nearly doubling stadium workers, improving the food menu and concessions, and adding a tiered left field Tiki Terrace.
In the first four Suns home games this season, the Suns drew 24,508 fans, an average of 6,127 fans per night, the largest crowds of any Double A franchise over the four-day period. Opening night alone drew 8,367 people, the biggest crowd for a home opener in nine years.
Prior to Akron, Babby spent 13 years in marketing positions with the Washington Post and its online and social media counterpart, Washington Post Digital. He attained positions of Vice President of Advertising, Chief Revenue Officer of Washington Post Media and General Manager of Washington Post Digital.
He serves on numerous boards in Northeast Ohio. In Jacksonville, he is on the 2016 Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He is also the chair of the Baseball Internet Rights Co. (BIRCO), which manages the digital and interactive media rights of its member Minor League Baseball clubs and leagues.
Upon completion of his first three-year term on the JU board, Babby will be eligible for reelection for two additional consecutive terms. The Jacksonville University Board of Trustees is made up of 30 members, including 10 alumni, representing national leaders in a wide range of fields such as education, technology, health care, financial services, medicine and the law.
For more information, contact Phillip J. Milano, JU Director of News and Publications, at (904) 256-7042 or firstname.lastname@example.org.