Mandalay Baseball Properties promised changes after it purchased the Oklahoma City RedHawks.
Right now, that includes a new name for the ballpark.
For the first time since the ballpark opened in 1998, it will not carry the name of the communications company that is now AT&T as its corporate sponsor. The stadium will be referred to as “RedHawks Ballpark,” according to Mandalay Baseball executive Michael Byrnes.
“AT&T told us they were changing their marketing strategy,” Byrnes said. “We're talking to a number of companies in the community, but there's nothing set yet.”
The stadium was named Bricktown Ballpark when construction began, but before the RedHawks played a game there, a naming rights agreement had the park called Southwestern Bell Ballpark. Backlash against that name, including a city council resolution criticizing the name, led Southwestern Bell to add “Bricktown” to the title.
In 2002, the name changed to SBC Bricktown Ballpark. The AT&T moniker replaced SBC in 2006.
With the recent snow giving way to sunshine and an exhibition game between the RedHawks and big league affiliate Houston Astros just six weeks away, cosmetic changes at the ballpark are going to start soon.
Among the most noticeable will be tarping off the upper deck along the first-base line and a new LED board over the left-field wall.
Byrnes said the decision to tarp off the seating sections was done to improve the overall fan experience.
“For our purposes, we want to provide unsurpassed customer service,” Byrnes said. “That includes being able to be in every section where our customers are sitting and to be able to make sure every area of the park is clean.
“This makes it easier for us to manage that.”
The change will bring the park's capacity for RedHawks games to around 8,900. Officially, the ballpark holds 13,066.
The sections will not be open for any RedHawks games, including Opening Day on April 15 or July 4.
Last season, the RedHawks had two crowds that would've been too big to accommodate the new seating format.
On June 10, a Thursday, they drew 11,128 against Albuquerque. On July 27, a Tuesday, against Round Rock, they attracted 9,192. The Fourth of July game also would've likely topped the mark but was rained out.
Tarping off seating sections isn't unheard of in professional sports. Mandalay Properties has done something similar in Scranton, Pa., where the Yankees' Triple-A team plays.
The Oakland A's, Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida Panthers have used tarps to cover sections of seating.
In the Pacific Coast League, Omaha tarped sections at Rosenblatt Stadium during Royals games. The upper bowl was often curtained off when the Blazers hockey team played at Oklahoma City Arena.
The RedHawks' tarp will feature advertisements.
The new LED board in left field is being manufactured by Daktronics and will be in place in time for the March 29 exhibition game vs. the Astros.
“With the weather changing this week, it definitely reinforces that it's coming here soon,” Byrnes said.