November 07, 2011
For perhaps $3 million-$6 million annually over the next 21 years, the Kansas City Royals reportedly are willing to sell out their founder, the late Ewing Kauffman, and rename their ballpark after a bank. Or maybe they'll just marginalize Kauffman a little bit and call the place "Whichever Bank Field at Kauffman Stadium."
Like any other business, Major League Baseball wouldn't survive without capital. But it also wouldn't be a $6 billion business without generations of fans investing in its history and tradition. And when you rename stadiums after corporations, you tend to sacrifice history and tradition. And, depending on what you call it, some soul.
KHSB-TV, the NBC station in Kansas City, reports that the Royals home park might go corporate as soon as Monday:
Sources close to the Royals say the corporation is a bank but they would not confirm which one.
However, it is worth noting that the chairman of the board of Arkansas based Arvest Bank is the son of the late Sam Walton of the Walmart family.
Royals owner David Glass is the former CEO of Walmart.
Boy, first Fox Sports moves the team to Kansas and now this. Corporately renaming stadiums is inevitable in all pro sports. In MLB, only eight stadiums out of 30 (once the Royals make it official) don't have corporate sponsorship. Teams owe it to their shareholders and their fans to maximize revenue streams.
They call it "The K" locally, though Kauffman Stadium was just plain old Royals Stadium for most of George Brett's career. Ewing Kauffman bought the Royals as an expansion franchise in 1969 and saw to it that a unique home ballpark, with its trademark fountains, soon followed. In the 1970s and '80s, Kauffman also saw to it that the Royals were a model franchise. They reached the World Series in 1980 and won it in '85. The stadium was renamed in his honor shortly before he died in 1993.
But what has Ewing Kauffman done for the Royals lately? It's not like he can make them more money in 2012.
Hey, maybe the funds from the naming-rights deal can help GM Dayton Moore buy a middle reliever who will help the Royals get over the top in the coming seasons, which ought to be their best ones in decades. Something to note, according to KHSB's sources: Half of the money will revert to Jackson County taxpayers and go toward ballpark maintenance. Sorry, Dayton. Make that a long reliever.
And with the All-Star game coming to K.C. this season and Kansas City's prospects in the AL Central looking up for years to come, maybe it's good that a corporation finally thinks enough of the Royals again to want its own name associated with their ballpark. Five years ago, I can't imagine why anyone would want that. They've made a lot of progress since.
But if Glass forgets where the Royals came from, and fans start calling the park "The Arv" in a few years, it'll be a damn shame.
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