Flashback: “council is allowed to reject a name only if it is tied to an inappropriate business or identity”
UPDATE: DESPITE WHAT FORMER MAYOR RON NORICK SAID IN 1998, THE LEASE DOES NOT APPEAR TO GIVE THE COUNCIL ANY CONTROL OVER THE BALLPARK’S NAMING RIGHTS.
Ballpark Gets Corporate Nameplate
By Bob Hersom, Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money
Oklahoma City’s new era of professional baseball will have a familiar ring to it.
That message rang clear on a windswept Tuesday at the new Bricktown ballpark, when the Oklahoma RedHawks officially introduced their home as Southwestern Bell Park.
“Southwestern Bell is involved with every aspect of this community as sponsors, promoters and supporters through volunteer leadership and resources,” said Oklahoma RedHawks President Clay Bennett.
“It is an absolute natural that this outstanding company would be a part of the Oklahoma RedHawks, a part of this baseball park and a part of this first product that’s launched from MAPS. We are very excited about the relationship.”
“All of us at Southwestern Bell are so proud to be part of this history-making event,” said Southwestern Bell regional President Donna Snyder. “Southwestern Bell is the home team. Back in 1904, when the Oklahoma City Metropolitans took the field, Southwestern Bell was in business here in Oklahoma City.”
“We have a new corporate partner, and that’s really what this is all about,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick. “It’s the commitment that Southwestern Bell has made to our community. These naming rights issues help keep ticket prices down and provide services, and I know Southwestern Bell is going to put a tremendous amount of dollars in their advertising budget on top of this just to promote Oklahoma City and the stadium.”
Bennett said the RedHawks, which has naming rights to the $29 million ballpark, entered into a seven-year agreement with Southwestern Bell.
Neither Norick, Bennett nor Southwestern Bell officials would say how much money Southwestern Bell was paying the Oklahoma RedHawks to put the company’s name on the ballpark.
“We’ve agreed not to disclose the financial terms,” Bennett said.
As for the stadium’s name, Norick said it will still have to face a vote of the city council. But the lease, according to Norick, does not allow the city council to arbitrarily reject a name. Instead, the council is allowed to reject a name only if it is tied to an inappropriate business or identity, Norick said.
“That’s not the case here – Southwestern Bell is a very good corporate citizen,” Norick said.
Oklahoma City will make some money from the revenue the RedHawks receive from the naming rights – $100,000 total, according to the lease agreement approved by the RedHawks and the city council.
Norick said the city will get more revenue than that because of the additional ticket sales the advertising package will generate. Ticket sales and concession revenues from the ticket buyers will be a boost, he said.
The majority of the city council said Tuesday they will support the new ballpark name.
But Councilman Jack Cornett said he would oppose the name if he could. He also repeated his claim that the city was on the short end of the stick during the lease negotiation.
About 50 people called city hall Tuesday afternoon to comment on the name, and most objected to the new designation.
Southwestern Bell Oklahoma President Dave Lopez said fan response to the naming of the park was not unexpected.
“I think every fan has that reaction, but I think it’s a reality,” Lopez said. “I think there’s a balance between the quality of the product and becoming overly commercialized. It is a fact of life in sports today.”