Rebranding is a big part of the Minor League Baseball offseason, as teams across the country unveil new names and logos. But the rebranding doesn't necessarily stop there. Ballpark names also are subject to change.Ballpark name changes are most often precipitated by the expiration of previously existing naming rights agreements.
Rebranding is a big part of the Minor League Baseball offseason, as teams across the country unveil new names and logos. But the rebranding doesn't necessarily stop there. Ballpark names also are subject to change.
Ballpark name changes are most often precipitated by the expiration of previously existing naming rights agreements. These corporatized facility names might not roll off the tongue or be embraced by fan bases, but they do provide insight into the institutions and industries that are prevalent in the area in which the facility is located. Here's an overview of the Minor League ballparks that have changed names since the end of the 2019 season.
Albuquerque Isotopes -- Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (formerly known as Isotopes Park)
Albuquerque's Isotopes Park opened in 2003, the same year the Isotopes debuted after relocating from Calgary [where they were known as the Cannons]. On Wednesday, this facility's name was changed to Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park. As the team noted in its press release, "Rio Grande Credit Union was started by City of Albuquerque employees in 1953. RCGU serves employees, volunteers, residents and members of numerous companies, nonprofit organizations and neighborhood associations."
Dayton Dragons -- Day Air Ballpark (formerly known as Fifth Third Field)
The Dayton Dragons debuted in 2000, having relocated from Rockford, Illinois. Remarkably, the Reds' Class A affiliate has sold out every game over the course of its existence, establishing an all-time professional sports record in the process. After 20 seasons -- and 1,385 sellouts -- at Fifth Third Field, the Dragons announced a 10-year naming rights agreement with Day Air Credit Union. The company is based in Kettering, Ohio, and serves the entire Miami Valley [of which Dayton is a part]. The name change resulted in a one-third reduction in the number of Minor League ballparks carrying the Fifth Third moniker.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp -- 121 Financial Ballpark (formerly the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville)
Since opening in 2003, Jacksonville's Minor League stadium was known simply as the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. This throwback moniker is no more. Last month, the Jumbo Shrimp announced that their city's "longest tenured professional sports franchise has entered into an agreement to play in a stadium bearing the name of one of Jacksonville's longest continually operating credit unions." The franchise is, of course, the Jumbo Shrimp themselves [originally known as the Suns]. The credit union is 121 Financial. The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville is now known as 121 Financial Ballpark, pending city council approval of the deal.
Nashville Sounds -- First Horizon Park (formerly First Tennessee Park)
Nashville's First Tennessee Park opened in 2015. It's now First Horizon Park, the result of "the company's unification of its banking, wealth management and fixed income businesses under the First Horizon brand." This change was announced last August; all-new signage will be in place by Opening Day.
Sacramento River Cats -- Sutter Health Park (formerly Raley Field)
After two decades as Raley Field, Sacramento's downtown ballpark becomes Sutter Health Park in 2020. Whereas Raley's is a West Sacramento-based supermarket chain, Sutter Health is a nonprofit health care network headquartered in California's capital city. The River Cats report that as a result of the partnership the ballpark will "serve as a community gathering space that actively promotes health and wellness."
As covered extensively in this column and elsewhere, there are four Minor League ballparks opening in 2020: Fredericksburg, Virginia; Wichita, Kansas; Madison, Alabama; and Kannapolis, North Carolina. The former two ballparks have yet to be named. As for the latter two:
Kannapolis Cannon Ballers -- Atrium Health Ballpark
On Feb. 5, the Cannon Ballers [formerly the Intimidators] announced a "monumental 10-year partnership" with Atrium Health. The key aspect of the partnership? Their new downtown stadium will be known as Atrium Health Park. The company, based in nearby Charlotte, North Carolina, will sponsor health fairs at the ballpark. Visitors to the facility will be "encouraged to take a lap around the concourse and count their steps."
Rocket City Trash Pandas -- Toyota Field
Did you know? Huntsville, Alabama, has been home to a Toyota engine manufacturing plant since 2003. Madison, Alabama, home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, is about a 20-minute drive from the plant. In October, the team and the city of Madison jointly announced that the ballpark will be known as Toyota Field. The ballpark's "Toyota Outfield Experience" will showcase the local plant and connect job-seekers to available employment opportunities. The Rocket City Trash Pandas are entering their first season, having relocated up the state from Mobile.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.