New ballpark name criticized for ties to gambling, city suburb

by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: April 5, 2012 at 10:36 am •  Published: April 5, 2012

Salyer said she was troubled by the renaming of the ballpark after another town and casino but added she would be more worried if the city were to lose the team — a concern voiced in 1997 by Norick as he pressed the council to quickly approve the 28-year lease.

“Would I have preferred it to be called something else representative of Oklahoma City?” Salyer asked. “Yes. But I'm very supportive of the RedHawks, I'm glad they are here. I think they're doing a good job.”

RedHawks, casino defend decision

Byrnes and Cross defended the naming rights deal as a means to continue improvements at the ballpark. Cross said she looks forward to promoting the casino to RedHawks fans.

“We realized our customer base is the same — we have the same audience,” Cross said.

That statement troubled Councilman Ed Shadid, who noted the ballpark is a family venue that draws a large number of children. Shadid said the deal is similar to Joe Camel cigarette advertising that sought to hook underage smokers in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I think this is reprehensible,” Shadid said. “Compulsive gambling in men tends to develop in early teenage years. Gambling addiction is a serious health concern for Oklahoma. Families in Oklahoma with members who are gambling addicts suffer higher proportions of domestic abuse and substance abuse.”

One city council member, however, defended the naming rights deal.

“I can remember the same unhappiness (some people had) when the Ford Center was named, when it was renamed the Chesapeake Energy Arena, when the Cox Convention Center had its name changed from the Myriad,” Councilman Pat Ryan said. “There's going to be somebody unhappy with all of that.”

Chickasaws, city are in water battle

The friction over the ballpark name coincides with a heated and public legal battle between the Chickasaw Nation and the City of Oklahoma City over water rights. Cross declined to comment when asked how the move to name the ballpark over a suburb and casino against the city's wishes might affect the relationship between the city and tribe.

Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby echoed Cross' comments in a news release.

“The opportunity to expand our existing partnership with the RedHawks club was one we could not pass up,” Anoatubby said. “It always is an honor for the Chickasaw Nation to partner with another organization that takes great pride in its relationship with the Oklahoma City community, its patrons and its staff. Newcastle Field at Bricktown will continue to be a place where baseball fans, both young and old, can enjoy a game and make memories that will not soon be forgotten.

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's Metropolitan...
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