December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Ballfield name change: Is “The Jake” history?

Planning to pay a visit to the Jacobs Field anytime soon? If so, you might want to snap a picture of the sign to preserve for posterity.

That’s because the The Jake, as fans affectionately call it, looks like it will soon be history.

The Cleveland Indians announced Wednesday that they were partnering with sports, entertainment and media firm IMG to search for a naming rights partner for the stadium.When the ballpark opened in 1994, then Indians owner Richard E. Jacobs purchased the naming rights for a 13-year term, which expired at the end of the 2006 season.

So just like in 2005, when Gund Arena morphed to Quicken Loans Arena — or “The Q” — after the Cavaliers were purchased by Quicken Loans Inc. chairman and founder Dan Gilbert, fans are going to have to get used to calling the stadium by another name.
And don’t be fooled: Claiming the name of a stadium is big business. And a business that gets repeat business, to be sure.
It’s an ordeal that began in 1973, when the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills accepted $60,000 a year from poultry processor Louis Rich. Since then, stadium names have fallen like dominoes, and some have changed multiple times within a few years.
The San Francisco Giants, for example, used to play at Candlestick Park, which then became 3Com Park, then San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Park, and then Monster Park.

The Giants now play in a new stadium: Pac-Bell Park, which is now called AT&T Park, but who knows for how long.
“Teams can do very well depending on the market they’re in by renaming the stadium,” said Larry McCarthy, professor of sports management at Seton Hall University in New Jersey who graduated from The Ohio State University.

McCarthy said the best example of how lucrative deals can be is the sale of naming rights to the new home of the New York Mets baseball team, which is set to open in 2009.

Financial firm Citigroup purchased the rights for Citi Field for $20 million in 2006, leaving the name Shea Stadium, where the Mets played since 1964 — just two years after they were founded — a soon-to-be memory.

“It’s a huge revenue stream,” McCarthy said.

Not every stadium can be renamed so easily, however.

Charles Steinberg, executive vice president for public affairs with the Boston Red Sox, said changing the name of Fenway Park, where his team has played since 1912, might be disastrous.

“Sometimes it’s simply a matter of maintaining tradition,” he said. “When you have 95 years of equity in an existing name, you’d better make sure that the new name is so well received that people leap to the new name, and that’s quite a tall order.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.