Baseball came to the Cleveland suburb of Avon in 2009, when the independent Frontier League added the Lake Erie Crushers to their 14-team association. The Crushers shot out of the gate, winning the league championship that year and never finishing lower than fourth in the East Division.
The Crushers have enjoyed all that success in All Pro Freight Stadium, a 5,000-seat park that made its debut the same year as the Crushers. Avon-based freight company All Pro Freight Systems ponied up the money for naming rights the first year, no doubt with a mix of civic pride and desire for promotion. In addition to the Crushers, the park hosts the MAC college baseball championships, as well as other local events.
All Pro Freight Stadium is a good, if not outstanding, park that is a great value and easy to reach, in a somewhat blah suburban locale.
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There isn't a huge selection of food and drink at All Pro Freight Stadium, but they cover the basics with a few curveballs, all at a very affordable cost. And every concession is on the promenade, so you can get your consumables without missing a half inning of the game.
The two main concessions are on the concourse by first and third base and offer up the same menu--and all the food is $5 or under. A corn dog is $2.75; $3 will get you a regular hot dog; $4 delivers a jumbo hot dog or chicken breast sandwich; $4.50 serves Italian sausage, hamburgers, or brats; and the lofty $5 will provide cheeseburgers or chicken fingers. Regular sodas are $3, and big souvenir cups are $5.
Cleveland mainstay BBQ restaurant the Proper Pig has a separate concession on the left field concourse that deals in $6 pulled pork sandwiches and, for the bigger eater, the $8 Lake Erie Crusher, a hot sausage piled on with coleslaw and pulled pork.
Suds and other adult beverages are available at the main concessions, as well as beer-specific carts lining the concourse. Bud, Bud Light, Labatt, and Coors are on tap at the main Stompers Grills for $5 for a regular and $7.50 for a large souvenir cup. Malt beverages are on offer for $4, and wine for $5. Yuengling has a stand near first, and LandShark and Labatt have carts near third with beer at the same prices.
Never pass up good barbecue, and the Proper Pig has good ballpark pork. Get the pulled pork sandwich if your eyes are generally bigger than your stomach. If not, try the Crusher. Barbecue not your thing? Grab a $4.50 ballpark brat. Wash it down with a souvenir beer. Your choice, really, but Yuengling is particularly nice on a hot night.
All Pro Freight Stadium is a solid ballpark. Much as with the food and drink, it doesn't stand out as exceptional, but it delivers on everything you would expect.
The park is a familiar minor league layout. A single section of seating runs from left field to right field, descending down from a promenade that circles the entire park. A club level houses party decks, luxury suites, and the press box, running from third base to first base. A picnic plaza for groups and all-you-can eat tickets is between third base and left field. A play area dominated by a giant bouncy castle sits in right field, next to the main scoreboard, and a general admission picnic hill is perched in left.
Stomper the bear and the fan services team run the on-field entertainment between innings. Your standard minor league races and contests fill the time between the innings, and during the game, Stomper can be found in the stands schmoozing with the fans.
Unless you're right by a dugout, there's no particular benefit for the extra $5 for the Field Boxes (which may increase your likelihood for a souvenir from the teams). Grab a Home Box seat behind home plate (for the best view of the action) or by the bases (to hopefully get a souvenir and be close to the concessions). The picnic hill in left is a cheap way to watch the game, but it is a bit of a hike for food or restrooms.
The Crushers' home of Avon is a near square suburb of nearby Cleveland, and a short distance north of Akron. Outside of its immediate neighbor YMCA, I-90 is the only thing nearby to the stadium.
Avon has a decent selection of non-chain restaurants to choose from. Out by the park is Wood & Wine (an Italian pizza and pasta place with its own sommelier), and for the less refined, Mulligan's Pub & Grille is a local favorite known for their wings. A short drive down 611 from the park are the Strip Steakhouse and Nemo Grille (seafood). Towards the center of town on 254 are the Winking Lizard Tavern (American) and the upscale Vintage House Cafe, where you can have high tea if you are so inclined. If BBQ is your thing, try out Bubba's-Q at the north end of town on 83.
There's not a lot to do in Avon proper. The Miller Nature Preserve is a good way to spend an afternoon for the outdoors type, and there a couple of country clubs for the duffers. A selection of small wineries reside in the north in Avon Lake, and a little further afield in Westlake and northwest Cleveland there is the Sky Zone trampoline gym and Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, a hands-on science museum for the kids. But if you're looking to do something besides see a ballgame, you're going to have to drive the half hour into Cleveland or Akron.
Avon has a handful of hotels. Closest to the park are the Fairfield Inn & Suites and Value Place hotel. On the east side of town are the Residence Inn Cleveland and Cambria Hotel & Suites. Villacations is a vacation villa rental in the southeast of town. Another half dozen hotels are to the east in Westlake, and many more when you get around Cleveland Airport to the northeast.
The Crushers sit in the middle of the pack for attendance for the healthy independent Frontier League, averaging about a half-full stadium a night.
As with most independent ball, the ballgame is one of many reasons fans come to the park. But Crushers fans, mostly families, do pay attention to the action on the field and show support, even if they can't be said to be die-hards to the last pitch.
Avon is more-or-less neatly bisected by I-90/Ohio 2 across its top, and by state road 83 from north to south. All Pro Freight Stadium is conveniently located just off I-90 on the west side of town.
The Greater Cleveland Transit Authority stops its service just east of Avon in Westlake, OH, at the Crocker Park Mall. Bus lines 25, 55F and 49 ($2.25) all service there from downtown Cleveland. But driving is your best bet. There are a couple of small airports and fields in the area, but Cleveland Hopkins International is the nearest major airport, a little under a half hour to the east, as are Greyhound and Amtrak stations in downtown Cleveland.
Parking is a reasonable $3 in the copious lots around the park.
Fans can get in an hour before game time. The main gates are by the ticket booth at home plate, and the lines empty quite swiftly. A smaller gate down the third base line is used by groups for the Picnic Plaza in left field.
Once inside, traveling in the park is a breeze. A wide concourse circles the park at the top of the seating bowl, with regular ramps to get down to your seat.
Independent baseball, much as with their affiliated minor league brethren, live or die by making an affordable night out for families. And in this important aspect, the Crushers definitely succeed.
Ticket prices are based on three seating areas. Field Boxes, right next to the action, are $14, Home Boxes are $9, and General Admissions lawn seating is $6. "Terrace Tables," with waitstaff table seating for four on the top of the lower-deck seating bowl, are $64 total for four guests. To get in on the pregame buffet on the Picnic Plaza (hot dogs, burgers, side dishes, soda, cookies, and brownies) costs $20 for a General Admission ticket and $23 for a Home Box ticket.
Parking costs a league average of $3, and with all food and most drinks $5 or less (and all $8 or less), you can feed a family without breaking the bank. All of this is further subsidized with daily specials, including $2 menu items on Tuesday, $1 hot dogs on Wednesday, and $1 draft beers and soft drinks on Thursday. The color program is a free give away at the gate.
Season tickets are available for $3,040 for Terrace Tables, $654 for Field Level Box Seats, and $395 for Home Box Seats. There are 12 and 24-game mini plans on offer starting at $99. Group rates are available for 20 or more people at $5 per person for general admission and $8 for Home Box groups under 300 people, and $7 per person for groups larger than 300. Luxury suites start at $500, and "Open Air Suites" of tables and Home Box seats for 24 people are $300. The Party Porches on first and third base start at $600.
There aren't a ton of bells and whistles at the park. Being a relatively new independent league team, there is not a lot of history to tout, but the park has its championship banners, along with a dedication plaque.
For those who want to sign up for on-field activities and contests, the fan services booth is located on the main promenade near the Fan-Attic team store, serving all your merchandise needs.
The play area in right field is a nice touch. As kids can blow off steam in the big bouncy castle, parents can keep an eye on the game over the outfield wall.
Delivering on all the basics at an affordable price, All Pro Freight Stadium provides a good night out for families in the Cleveland suburbs.
Recently attended the MAC Tournament at All Pro Freight Stadium. It was a little underwhelming as a facility, although I did like the seating, including the tables and chairs above the seating areas on the concourse.
The food was just average, and overall it is sort of a ho-hum stadium. I'll be doing a review of the experience of the MAC Tournament at this facility, but I'll be interested to go back to see the Crushers and see how it compares.
The Lake Erie Crushers began their existence in 2009 as a member of the Frontier League, an independent professional baseball league. In their first year, they won the league title. Their home is All Pro Freight Stadium, an accessible park found in Avon, Ohio, just west of Cleveland.
The park features a turf surface that I am not particularly fond of, but the park overall provides good entertainment value and affordability. Besides being the home of the Crushers, All Pro Freight Stadium hosted the 2012 MAC Baseball Tournament, where it is scheduled to be played in 2013 as well.
This place is your typical independent league ballpark. It's located right off of I-90, with nothing notable around it but a parking lot. With all the land around it, it seems like they put the park awfully close to the highway, and there are nets to protect passing cars from foul balls. There is a huge berm in left field full of kids rolling around all game. You can completely circle the park, which is always nice. Crowds seem kind of small for the Frontier League, but not drastically so. There just isn't much here to make this park stand out.
36840 Detroit Rd
Avon, OH 44011
38244 Colorado Ave
Avon, OH 44011
35800 Detroit Rd
Avon, OH 44011
28728 Wolf Rd
Cleveland, OH 44140
2739 Center Rd
Avon, OH 44011
39050 Colorado Ave
Avon, OH 44011