Omaha might be part of our country's Plains region, but the city's baseball team now possesses a name that is anything but plain.
After more than four decades as the Royals, the venerable Pacific Coast League franchise announced Monday that it will henceforth be known as the Storm Chasers. The new moniker pays homage to Omaha's claim to be the extreme weather capital of the United States.
"The name embodies what Minor League Baseball is all about," said Storm Chasers general manager, Martie Cordaro. "It's fun, family oriented and gives the team a regional identity. This is a tremendous branding opportunity and really opens up a lot of doors for us."
The Storm Chasers name signifies a new era in Omaha professional baseball, as 2011 marks the club's first season in nearby Sarpy County after 42 years at iconic Rosenblatt Stadium. The still-under-construction stadium was christened "Werner Park" last week, the result of a naming rights deal with Werner Enterprises, a global logistics firm based in the city.
The unveiling of the "Storm Chasers" moniker marked the culmination of a "Name the Team" contest that drew 1,500 fan submissions. This glut of options was eventually narrowed down to nine finalists, each representing one of five key facets of life in Omaha: philanthropy, the military, transportation, agriculture and the weather. A fan vote, in concert with focus group research and input from logo design firm Plan B Branding, resulted in the selection of "Storm Chasers."
"The common theme that emerged [in the focus groups] was that Omaha deserves a bit more for itself, and is entitled to a unique hometown identity," said Jason Klein of Plan B Branding, which has previously been involved with prominent Minor League rebrandings such as the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
That unique identity manifests itself in the whimsical uniforms and logos. As stated in a press release announcing the change, "The new primary logo features the team's electrified 'Storm Chasers' lettering with the new classic 'O-Bolt' emblem behind. Royal blue, Twister gold, Blackout black and Radar red make up the club's official colors."
Additionally, team mascot Casey the Lion will be joined by a pair of meteorological-themed costumed characters: Stormy and Vortex.
Still, many in the area had become attached to the O-Royals moniker, which reflected the team's long-standing affiliation with the Kansas City Royals. Cordaro conceded that the reaction to Storm Chasers has thus far been a "mixed bag," while Klein utilized a more elaborate metaphor.
"A logo, symbolically, is a box. And over the years, fans accumulate experiences with an organization and put their emotions into that box," he said. "When there is a logo change, all of these emotions are dumped out, and now all of a sudden there is a new box. So it's reasonable and understandable for there to be some negative reactions. There hasn't been enough time yet to take the emotions linked with the old box and put them into the new one."
But Opening Day is nearly five months away, and the Storm Chasers will have the remainder of the offseason to explain to naysayers the motivations and benefits of the new name. Cordaro, for his part, projects nothing but optimism when it comes to this new era in Omaha baseball history.
"This is a process that has lasted a year a half, and it's been an unbelievable educational experience throughout," he said. "We're excited about our future at Werner Park and trying to inject a lot of energy and personality into our operation."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MLB.com.