Frederick considers selling Keys’ stadium naming rights -- Gazette.Net


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In 2006, the University of Maryland’s Byrd Stadium nabbed a sponsorship with Chevy Chase Bank, making the full name of the venue Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium.

The Frederick Board of Aldermen and city-hired consultant group TeamServices LLC are hoping a similar situation will work with Harry Grove Stadium, allowing the city to make some money from the ballpark while retaining the Grove name it has borne since opening in 1990.

The stadium is home to minor league baseball’s Frederick Keys — a high-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles — who negotiated an additional 10-year lease with the five aldermen in 2011 at an annual rate of $100,000.

However, the contract does not specify how the Keys and the city would split revenues from the sale of any naming rights.

The consultant estimated that such an agreement could bring in between $150,000 to $250,000 annually, over a multimillion-dollar contract that could extend for a decade or more. But the question will be how much of that revenue the city gets.

The city and the team opted to negotiate those rights after approving the contract, but it has not been finalized.

Several of the aldermen said during a work session Wednesday that the city needed to receive a significant portion of the revenue from the deal.

The city owns the stadium and could reject the naming rights’ deal if the aldermen don’t feel its share is equitable.

“I’m realistic enough to know there’d be no naming rights without the team,” Alderman Michael O’Connor said. “... We have to be a partner, or they get nothing. Our willingness to say, ‘We don’t have to do naming rights’ is an asset.”

Alderman Karen Young (D) said she didn’t want to see a situation where the sponsor’s name would dwarf Harry Grove Stadium on billboards or other advertising.

“Where I’m trying to go is we don’t want to do anything to diminish the contribution of the Grove family,” she said. “... I want to ascertain there are some standards developed that wouldn’t diminish the Harry Grove name.”

Virginia Grove Matthias of Ellicott City, a granddaughter of Harry Grove who attended the meeting with her brothers, John and Jim, urged the board to make sure the Grove name stayed with the structure.

The Grove family donated $250,000 to the city to help build the stadium, which was named it in honor of Harry Grove, who was one of the founders of the Frederick Hustlers, a professional team that played in the area from 1915 until World War II.

The city has previous agreements with the Grove family and the Loats Foundation for the naming rights to the stadium and the park where it is located.

Chris Hudgins, the general manager for Rockville-based TeamServices, which will help negotiate the deal and has made similar deals for professional and minor league teams, said the goal wouldn’t be to have a huge sponsor name splashed across the facility.

The sponsor’s name could be on gates, interior signs, and signs on the stadium’s exterior.

“We don’t want to slap the company name all over any place and every place,” he said. “We want to do it tactful.”

Keys representatives were not at the meeting and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Previously, Assistant General Manager Adam Pohl said the team was in favor of preserving the Grove name and the naming rights’ deal, which could help fund needed upgrades to the stadium.

The Keys are responsible for utilities in the stadium, and the city has budgeted about $33,000 in fiscal 2013 for general upkeep, according to Katie Barkdoll, the city director of budget and purchasing.

He said some of the most important assets would be the exterior of the stadium that faces Interstate 70 on the outskirts of downtown because drivers would see the signs daily.

Included in the presentation given by Hudgins and Scott Akers, the director of sales, to the aldermen was a comparison of sponsorship arrangements at other similar stadiums nationwide, factoring in size, age and average attendance, including the Long Island Ducks of Central Islip, N.Y., and Harrisburg Senators of Harrisburg, Pa.

The Ducks, who play in a similarly-sized stadium, sold the naming rights for $2.1 million over 10 years in 2011, while the Senators sold theirs in 2003 for $3.5 million over 15 years.

The city’s contract with the TeamServices costs about $25,000.

Discussion of the naming rights deal will continue at a later date that has not yet been set.

tlaino@gazette.net