New name, new lease help Intimidators look to the future

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — Tuesday, the Kannapolis Intimidators’ baseball park officially got its new name: CMC-NorthEast Stadium.
The midmorning announcement event at the ballpark, which included remarks by CMC-NorthEast President Phyllis Wingate and Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer, presented the new partnership as a win-win for all involved.
After the event, Misenheimer told the Post he hoped not only for “bigger and better things” as a result, but that Kannapolis’ support of the local minor league team would continue to grow.
Wingate said the naming rights deal continues a 75-year tradition of hospital involvement in community activities, especially sports teams.
Later on Tuesday, Brad Smith, president of Intimidators owner Smith Family Baseball, told the Post the naming rights deal would help keep the team in town.
“It goes a long way toward securing our future in Kannapolis, and we’re real excited about that,” Smith said.
He reiterated comments made earlier Tuesday that no financial details of the naming rights sale will be released.
And he downplayed the financial aspects of the deal, emphasizing instead the partnership with a longtime sponsor.
The new lease between the city of Kannapolis and Smith Family Baseball, signed by Smith and City Manager Mike Legg on Monday, gave the team the ability to sell the naming rights for as long as it is in force — at least five years, extendable up to 15.
A new lease follows Kannapolis’ purchase of Rowan County’s stake in the former Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium last year.
The most talked-about detail of that new contract is the token $1 per year rent that Smith Family Baseball will pay.
Under the previous lease negotiated with the city and county, Smith Family Baseball paid $50,000 per year rent, as well as 65 cents per ticket, 10 percent of concession revenues and 65 percent of parking revenue.
Now, the team will keep all concession profits, as well as all of the proceeds from parking and tickets at baseball events.
Smith said the $1-a-year figure “looks good in headlines,” but doesn’t reflect the underlying trade-offs.
During the first five-year term, the team will assume more responsibilities for stadium upkeep.
Already, Smith said, the team will begin paying the stadium’s utility bills year-round, including water which wasn’t included in the former lease.
“The two leases are actually much closer than you would think,” Smith said.
The new lease also made the name change possible, Smith said, granting them naming rights for the duration of the lease and all proceeds from the sale.
The previous “lifetime” naming rights sale to Fieldcrest Cannon was invalidated by the demise of successor company Pillowtex.
Intimidators General Manager Randy Long said a naming rights deal with CMC-NorthEast, already a longtime sponsor, made sense.
“They were at the top of our wish list, of course, before we even knew we could discuss it,” Long said.
Long also praised the hospital’s work in the community and its increasing profile, especially the new CMC-Kannapolis standalone emergency facility.
The 26,000-square-foot treatment center, which opened January 16, is located just outside the ballpark’s entrance.
Long said a CMC-NorthEast partnership will allow more opportunities for partnerships in the community.
And although the Cannon name is no longer on the stadium, the hospital today known as CMC-NorthEast was founded 75 years ago through the support of Charles A. Cannon.
Bill Cannon, grandson of the late Cannon Mills president, was present at the Tuesday morning event, but did not speak.
He could not be reached for comment before press time.
Smith said Cannon’s presence at the event was an honor.
“By Bill being there, that made us feel very good with the name change,” Smith said.
“We are very appreciative of all that (the Cannons) have done for the city, the stadium and the community.”
The new Intimidators season begins Thursday at home versus the Hickory Crawdads.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.