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.
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