Past and future merge: Cannon Ballers name reveal brings excitement to Kannapolis
By Liz Moomey
KANNAPOLIS — After months of guessing, the big reveal came for local minor league baseball fans with the new name of the city’s team, the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.
Gathered at the Gem Theatre and around an outdoor screen in downtown Wednesday night, fans were taken back in time from Cannon Mill’s baseball team, the Towelers, to the Kannapolis Intimidators, named after late NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt.
The team finished its last season with the Intimidators name at the Moose Road Stadium. Next season, they will be at the Sports and Entertainment Venue in downtown Kannapolis.
The naming process began in February when the team called on the community for name suggestions. Some wanted the name to remain the Intimidators, and more than 1,200 others gave the team new suggestions. Other names were added looking at racing, culture, local foods, flora, fauna and local nicknames.
Alicia Amling, director of Kannapolis team owner Temerity Baseball, said they would ask people what Kannapolis means to them in one word. Together, design firm Studio Simon and Temerity Baseball narrowed down the name by talking to the city council, baseball fans, longtime Kannapolis residents, transplants and other community members.
Dan Simon, owner and creative director of Studio Simon, said they looked at the mill that the community was built on and also the city being built.
“Should the identity reflect the past? Should the identity reflect the future?” Simon said. “That was a really big question.”
When the team opened up community input on Feb. 12 it received good and really bad ideas, Amling said. The name needed to be local, unique and fun. Amling said she learned a lot about the city when narrowing the name down to one, the Cannon Ballers.
“We didn’t want to just be a town that the Cannons built, but obviously the Cannon family is incredibly important to us and obviously the racing heritage is so important to this area,” Amling said. “I think we honored both of them.”
The Cannon family was mentioned constantly, Simon said. Amling said it was an overarching theme.
Matt Millward, general manager of the Cannon Ballers, said the name needed to be creative but connect with the Kannapolis, its history and Earnhardt.
In the video broadcasted Wednesday night, Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant said many in the community didn’t know anything but working at the mill.
Andy Sandler, owner of the baseball team, said the community picked the new name.
“The community really wanted us to do two things: continue to honor Dale Earnhardt, as the favorite son of the community, and also recognize the history of the community and the importance of the Cannon Mills and that whole business,” Sandler said. “We think we accomplished both agendas.”
Once the Cannon Ballers were revealed, the Gem Theatre erupted in applause. The new mascot came out along with players modeling the uniforms.
Jay Evans, owner of Editions Coffee Shop and Book Store in downtown, said he was happy with the team name. Evans said he guessed the name would be Cannons, and many others did, too, especially after Dale Earnhardt Jr. offered it as a suggestion.
Jay Evans’ wife, Dawn, said she thought it was going to be a phoenix. In the video, there was a mention that Kannapolis had risen from the ashes.
Along with the name, the couple said they are excited about the future of downtown Kannapolis, already seeing an increase of traffic into their shop.
A new streetscape opened in downtown Kannapolis last week. That’s one of the many projects coming to completion in downtown, according to Hinnant. He said many are excited and enthusiastic seeing the city transform, especially older citizens that didn’t expect to see it bounce back in their lifetime.
“They’re so excited they have been a part of it,” Hinnant said. “All of us like to be a part of something and, for them, this is being a part of seeing the community that they love so much and the mill they love so much. They saw it coming back alive to them and for them to remember what it.”
All a sudden, Hinnant said, their dream is coming true.
The momentum is building, Sandler said.
Fran and Kat Jeanes said the city’s development is why they moved to close to downtown Kannapolis. The pair said they loved the name and the mascot.
Andy Quillen said he thought the name was cool and different and would carry well in the long run, adding that a lot of people were sad to see the Intimidators name go. But it’s the end of the era, Quillen said.
The community will decide the name of the mascot as they wait for opening day on April 16.
“I can barely wait,” Sandler said.
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