Naming Rights Report: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark

Outcry forces minor league baseball team to quickly change casino-linked name

  • by Alfred Branch
  • Published: April 11, 2012

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The newly-named Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.

Date Announced: April 5

Owner/Tenant: Mandalay Baseball Properties/Oklahoma City RedHawks

Terms: Specific terms were not disclosed, but J.P. Shadrick, Oklahoma City RedHawks director of Media Relations and Broadcasting, acknowledged that the deal gave the Chickasaw Nation naming rights for several years. Oklahoma City received $100,000 for the naming rights as part of a lease agreement with the previous owners.

Comments: Facing mounting criticism of the local AAA baseball park bearing the name of a gambling casino, it took only a day for the Chickasaw Nation, one of Oklahoma’s leading Native American tribes, to reverse course.

The Nation, owners of the Newcastle Casino outside of Oklahoma City, announced it acquired the naming rights to the Oklahoma City RedHawks’ ballpark on April 4 and planned to call it Newcastle Field at Bricktown. On signage that was to be erected at the park in the coming weeks, the word “Casino” was going to be featured in small, faint letters to the right just under the word “Newcastle.”

Bill Anoatubby, governor of Chickasaw Nation, said in a statement last week that the tribe jumped at the chance to build on the already two-year-old relationship between the team and the Nation. 

Despite the good intentions, criticism of the new name came swiftly.

City officials were briefed on the proposed name in the weeks leading up to the announcement,  Shadrick told Venues Today. But that did not stop some from complaining.

They questioned why a baseball stadium would be named after a gambling entity, considering the sport’s checkered past with Pete Rose and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson receiving lifetime bans for alleged involvement with illegal wagering.

Additionally, others criticized the use of Newcastle in the name because it did not have anything to do with promoting the city. Newcastle is the small suburb where the casino is located outside of Oklahoma City, and it has a population of less than 8,000.

The ballpark was built by Oklahoma City in 1998 using about $34 million in city funds.

“The amount of concern about the new name was a surprise,” Shadrick said, adding that the criticism created an “awkward” situation for the team and the Nation.

Shadrick said the Nation listened to the public outcry and quickly decided to change the name to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The Nation will still hold casino-related promotions in the ballpark, which it has for the last two seasons, and Shadrick added that the relationship between the Nation and the team remains strong.

“Our intention from the start was to have a partnership that would have a positive impact on the longterm success of the RedHawks franchise, the Chickasaw Nation and Oklahoma City,” RedHawks President and General Manager Michael Byrnes said in a statement. He added that the team was “deeply grateful” for the Nation’s flexibility in readdressing the naming issue so quickly.

“In our discussions today they presented us a new name that better represented the relationship,” Byrnes said.

Since its opening in 1998, the stadium had carried various names relating to the telephone giant AT&T — Southwestern Bell Bricktown Ballpark, SBC Bricktown Ballpark and, most recently, AT&T Bricktown Ballpark.

AT&T’s naming rights expired in 2011 and, last season, the stadium was called RedHawks Field at Bricktown, until the new name and sponsor was chosen this year.

According to Shadrick, an undisclosed number of area businesses were approached about acquiring the naming rights, but Chickasaw Nation was the only entity to “step up.”

Contact: J.P. Shadrick, (405) 218-1000

  • by Alfred Branch
  • Published: April 11, 2012
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