The name of one of Oklahoma's historic tribes, not one of its biggest casinos, will grace the facade of Oklahoma City's ballpark in Bricktown.
In an abrupt about-face, the Chickasaw Nation announced Thursday it would not name the home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks AAA baseball team after its casino in Newcastle. The stadium will now be known as Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
The Chickasaws and the RedHawks had announced about 30 hours earlier that the tribe bought the ballpark's naming rights and would call it Newcastle Field at Bricktown. Some of the signage at the ballpark would have prominently featured the logo of Newcastle Casino.
The move was met with strong and near-unanimous criticism from city leaders who voiced an opinion on the name.
“We have a great admiration for the 50-year history of professional baseball in Oklahoma and the major role the ballpark has played in Oklahoma City's amazing renaissance,” Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a statement. “Out of consideration for the expressed concerns of Oklahoma City citizens, we have decided to revisit the name.”
City leaders are pleased with change
Mayor Mick Cornett and other city leaders had expressed dismay that the name of a casino and Oklahoma City suburb would be displayed on a city-owned building. But the city sold naming rights to the team in 1998 and has no control over what the stadium is called.
Cornett said he and others who criticized the name are pleased with the change.
“I think that the team and the sponsor thought they had a good name (for the ballpark),” Cornett said. “And I think today (Thursday), they decided they could come up with a better one. It reflects well on this community's ability to get together and pull on the same rope.”
The fact the team's opening day was Thursday also played a role in the change coming so quickly, Cornett said. The RedHawks opened an eight-game homestand Thursday to start the season.
Feedback was considered
Feedback from fans and Oklahoma City leaders led team and Chickasaw officials to ponder changes, said Michael Byrnes, RedHawks president and general manager. The team and Chickasaws were in contact with city officials “as any prudent partner would be,” he said.
“Our intention from the start, we wanted this partnership to be positive for the city, positive for the franchise, positive for the Chickasaw Nation,” Byrnes added. “We wanted to make sure this was reflective of that. That's what led us to reconsider.”
People who complained to the team were evenly split in opposition to the Newcastle name on a city-owned park because of its ties to a suburb and to a casino.
“The citizens of this community built this ballpark. We want to be respectful of that,” Byrnes said.
The Newcastle Casino will continue to be featured in the Chickasaws' sponsorship of the team, which predated the naming rights deal, Byrnes said. He noted the role of sponsorships in allowing the team to pay for recent upgrades to the ballpark.
“Those types of improvements and investments in the ballpark, they all come from key partners like this,” Byrnes said.
The RedHawks, an affiliate of Major League Baseball's Houston Astros, are owned by Los Angeles-based Mandalay Sports. Mandalay negotiated the deal to sell the ballpark's naming rights to the Chickasaws.
A Chickasaw spokeswoman said there is no timetable on when signs at the stadium will reflect the new name.