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Jumbo Shrimp Owner Discusses Team’s Move To Triple-A, Support For Lot J

121 Financial Ballpark, the home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS
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121 Financial Ballpark, the home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Jumbo Shrimp owner and CEO Ken Babby is bullish on Jacksonville’s future.

Thursday he said on WJCT's First Coast News with Melissa Ross that the city’s growth in the last decade was a big factor in the Miami Marlins inviting its Jacksonville affiliate to move up to Triple-A baseball.

“We certainly see the growth in terms of people moving to our region. You can see it just as you drive to town with cranes up, businesses choosing Jacksonville as new corporate homes,” Babby said.

Related: Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp Get Minor League Boost To Triple-A

For fans, the move from Double-A to Triple-A will mean seeing higher caliber games. 

“We'll be competing against teams with similar market sizes like Charlotte, and Nashville, and Buffalo, and  Indianapolis. And so we’ll be competing against higher level talent. But we'll also have the best of the best from the Marlins,” said Babby.

Babby said it helps that Jacksonville is an NFL town. “This really establishes us in a different level in the  the sports ecosystem, as the Jaguars continue to grow, and our commitment to the city, you know, was extended actually last year with a lease extension and naming rights agreement with 121 Financial. Their team has been phenomenal in supporting us.”

The Jumbo Shrimp also stand to benefit if the proposed $457 million Lot J development deal is ultimately approved, which would build an entertainment and mixed-use district within a short walk of 121 Financial Ballpark.

Babby said he understands the concerns about the proposed $250 million in city incentives for the project that are being raised. “It’s good for those questions to be asked and answered. But ultimately, at the end of the day, we believe that the legislation should pass.”

Babby said the development would be good for Downtown and pointed out the importance his team plays in the equation. “The Jumbo Shrimp play a huge role in that process, with not only our 70 home games each year, but other events - movie nights, festivals, concerts - all sorts of different things that we've done at the ballpark over the last few years. You're talking about a facility at 121 Financial Ballpark that's going to be activated almost 200 nights a year.”

The owner says even as his team grows, it won’t forget what at the core makes it successful. “Our strategy in providing great affordable family, and yes, even quirky fun, for our community in Northeast Florida is not changing.” Babby said that includes keeping Thirsty Thursdays.

The Jumbo Shrimp will be announcing their 2021 season schedule soon. The entire interview with Babby can be heard on Thursday's First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross on WJCT.org. It also encores Thursday at 8 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.