Over 1,200 suggestions for Kannapolis baseball franchise

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

By Dennis Davidson


KANNAPOLIS — That’s a lot of suggestions.

Last Wednesday, the Kannapolis minor league baseball franchise launched its “Branded New By You” campaign, asking community members to suggest names to help define the team’s new identity.

The one-week suggestion period ended yesterday.

“We eclipsed 1,200 submissions of names,” said Vince Marcucci, Kannapolis’ assistant general manager. “There are some repeats but pretty much unique submissions. We are thrilled with that number and a lot people submitted great names that were well-thought out — with great descriptions.

“It’s definitely going to give us some good input on what our thought process will be going forward,” continued Marcucci. “I think it gauged the reaction of the community pretty well.”

For 18 years, the team has been known as the Intimidators, named after Kannapolis native and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who was an owner of the team before his death in February 2001.

As the franchise moves toward a new era of baseball at the city’s new sports and entertainment venue, the team invited the community to help rename the franchise. The team will be still be the Intimidators during the 2019 season, the last in the current ballpark off Lane Street.

After last Wednesday’s announcement, there was plenty of fans speaking out against the change, and Twitter lit up for a day or so. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted: “I remember how proud dad was of this. What a shame it has to end.”

But a second tweet from Earnhardt Jr. was more positive, actually offering two suggestions — “If a change is indeed imminent maybe: ‘Ironheads’ if they want to continue to honor Big E,” Earnhardt Jr. tweeted last week. And he added, “‘Cannons’ if they’d like to honor some history of the town itself.”

“We definitely didn’t expect this process to be without controversy,” Marcucci said yesterday. “We would have been crazy not to expect some push-back on changing the name, but at the end of the day, the thing that we wanted to accomplish the most was to provide the community a name that represents what it has been and what it’s going to be in the future.

“And I think we have some good ideas,” continued Marcucci. “It was really nice that Dale Jr. supported us with that tweet the next day, of his two name submissions. That definitely weighed on us pretty heavily.”

Of course, a lot of people, whether fans of the baseball team or of racing and Earnhardt, were against the name change. One fan tweeted last Thursday: “I got a good one (name). The Kannapolis Intimidators.”

Earnhardt Sr. was part of an ownership group that purchased the franchise in late 2000. Charlotte Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith was also part of that group and the name of the team was changed from the Piedmont Boll Weevils to the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Three months later, Earnhardt Sr. was killed at Daytona and the “Intimidator” never saw his team play a game.

According to Marcucci, who just arrived to the team in 2018, ownership changed in 2004 and then again last year, when Temerity Capital purchased the franchise.

Marcucci said last week that the franchise doesn’t own the rights to the name “Intimidators.” One can assume that the estate of the late Earnhardt owns those rights.

“I’m not well-versed enough in that subject, being new to the team,” added Marcucci. “All I know is that the name-change ball had already started rolling when I took this position last fall.”

The Kannapolis Sports and Entertainment Venue will anchor the Downtown Kannapolis Revitalization Project. It is designed as a city park with daily access to the public, a kids’ zone and with the ability to accommodate special events year-round in addition to the 70 professional baseball games the franchise plays.

The venue, with a capacity of 4,930 for baseball, will feature luxury suites, picnic terrace areas, an outfield bar and 6,000 square feet of club/banquet space.

Marcucci said last week that moving into the new stadium is the perfect time for a rebranding.

“It isn’t our new ownership or anybody new with the team that is fueling the change,” explained Marcucci, “but it’s been tossed around over the past few years that with the new ballpark coming, it doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to print the current logo and name all over a huge facility and then decide a year or two later to change — after you’ve spend time and money on building your brand in a new place.”