Neil deMause commented earlier today about how the official adoption of a new ballpark name is no guarantee that the name will actually be used. Comiskey Park will always be Comiskey to me and Wrigley will always be Wrigley, even if they change the name to Chicklets Field. I’m sure that many of you hold similar prejudices.
In that spirit, I took a straw poll of the Baseball Prospectus staff, asking for their off-the-cuff instinct about what name they first associate with a stadium. The results are worth sharing.
Anaheim Stadium 5
The Big ‘A’ 4
Edison (International) Field 3
Angel Stadium (of Anaheim) 2
Nobody can agree on what the team should be called, so it’s only fitting that nobody can agree on what the stadium should be called. It’s even more fitting that the current name is the least popular choice.
Kauffman Stadium 13
Royals Stadium 1
Just one holdout for the old moniker. Whether that’s a show of respect to the philanthropic Kauffman or a show of disrespect to the “Royals” brand, I’m not certain.
Note to software and Internet companies: your products generally aren’t sexy enough to have cachet in the eyes of baseball fans, not even in Silicon Valley.
The Ballpark in Arlington 11
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington 2
Ameriquest Field 1
Two of our staffers are evidently extremely quick studies who have already taken to calling the Arlington, Texas stadium by its new Rangers Ballpark name. In any event, Ameriquest Field will not be missed. BONUS PREDICTION: Rangers Ballpark will soon be known as ‘The Range’.
Rogers Centre 2
SkyDome was once a brand unto itself, so it surprised me when the name was dropped so quickly. Maybe Rogers Centre resonates up in Canada, but to most Americans it sounds like a hockey rink, especially with the funny anglicized spelling.
(New) Comiskey Park 6.5
U.S. Cellular Field 5
The Cell 2.5
U.S. Cellular is a bit of a mouthful, and I say this as someone who has done at least 20 radio gigs as “Nate Silver of Baseball Perspectives”. Still, it’s gaining some traction as some old-timers who might have insisted on ‘Comiskey’ or ‘Sox Park’ are now gravitating toward ‘The Cell’.
Pac Bell Park 11
AT&T Park 2
SBC Park 0
Pac Bell Park was one of the few corporate names that fans didn’t mind at all. It was alliterative, the company was headquartered in San Francisco — and hey, the ballpark was right on China Basin. Pacific Ocean. Pacific Bell. It all made sense. AT&T Park is … none of those things. There are probably some arbitrage gains to be had by changing the name to something like Prudential Park.
Bank One Ballpark 10
The BOB 2
Chase Field 2
Bank One Ballpark was as corporate as it got, but it was nice and masculine sounding, especially when transformed into The BOB. Chase Field sounds like someone who had a fling with Rock Hudson.
Pro Player Stadium 8
Dolphin Stadium 3
Dolphins Stadium 2
Joe Robbie Stadium 2
Pro Player Stadium, like Great American Ball Park and the United Center, is one of those names that could almost stand on its own. Sure, it sounds like something that an eight-year-old might have come up with … The Marlins, they’re baseball players! They’re pros! They’re pro baseball players! They’re playing in this stadium! It’s Pro Player Stadium! But it’s still better than the indignity of playing in a facility that’s named after another team, the clever attempt to genericize the name by dropping the ’s’ in Dolphins notwithstanding. The New York Jets, for counterexample, are wise enough to refer to their home as The Meadowlands rather than Giants Stadium.
Minute Maid Park 11
Enron Field 4
Astros Field 0
I thought I was going to be in the minority in picking Minute Maid Park, but it’s a name that’s held up a little better than I’d expected. There are some subconscious associations that work pretty well: juice is orange — well, it’s orange is if it’s orange juice — and so are the Astros. The “Juice Box” nickname has gotten some traction. Plus, there’s the little fact that in the eyes of many Houstonians, calling something Enron Field isn’t any better than calling it Bin Laden Baseball Grounds.
So, a couple of unscientific conclusions about ballpark naming:
1. Pick one name and stick with it. Rapid-fire name changes produce diminishing returns.
2. Alliteration helps. Minute Maid Park, Pac Bell Park, Pro Player Stadium, and Bank One Ballpark all won their categories. Every non-alliterative corporate name lost.
3. Geographic resonance helps. Pac Bell Park was a great name in California. Miller Park is a great name in Milwaukee. Even Cisco Park has potential in Fremont. On the other hand, there are apparently twenty-three basketball arenas named after American Airlines, and I can’t tell you where one of them is located.
4. Make sure your product appeals to Joe Sixpack. Joe will happily do some free advertising for Coors when he calls into drive-time radio. He will not do the same thing for Ameriquest.
5. Pass the NFL Films Test. Compare “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field” to the “frozen tundra of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona”. Yes, I know that there’s no tundra in Arizona. You get my drift.
6. If all else is lost, pick something that’s nicknameable. The presence of a readily available nickname (The Cell, TheJuice Box) may be the only way to salvage a choice that violates rules 1-5.