Harry Grove Stadium naming rights possible

What’s in a name?

The mayor and aldermen must now answer that question as they decide whether to sell the naming rights to the home of the Frederick Keys baseball team.

A majority of the aldermen agreed at Wednesday’s workshop to allow the mayor to move forward with portions of a contract with an outside firm that specializes in marketing and negotiating field naming rights for stadiums across the country.

One caveat is not negotiable.

The name Harry Grove, for whom the stadium was named when Grove’s son provided $250,000 to finish the project, must remain.

“There’s no intent or interest by the city or the staff to remove the Harry Grove name and forget about that historical gift that the family made to the city,” said Josh Russin, executive assistant to Mayor Randy McClement.

The contract that allows the Keys to lease the stadium for 10 years requires the name to stay.

Russin said the revenue would be necessary to fund long-term improvement projects planned at the ballpark.

“I think the naming rights is the thing that’s necessary to make (the stadium) sustainable,” Alderwoman Shelley Aloi said. “We know it’s not now. The naming rights are the thing that’s necessary to tip the scale in our favor.”

Alderman Michael O’Connor said it was important to at least look at the options. The Keys brought in more than 300,000 fans this season, according to O’Connor, and that would create value for a deal.

The agreement calls for Rockville-based Team Services LLC to determine the city’s options and come up with a plan for potential investors. According to the recently signed 10-year lease agreement with the Keys, the two sides must also determine how to split any revenue gained by selling the naming rights.

The company has negotiated deals for the naming of FedEx Field (home of the Washington Redskins), the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium and other major sports teams around the country. They have also worked with colleges and minor league teams, according to Chris Hudgins, general manager of Team Services.

“We view (naming rights) as a really powerful marketing tool,” Hudgins said. “It doesn’t mean just slapping a name on a sign and calling it a partnership.”

Part of the process would be making sure the corporate sponsor was a good match for the city, Hudgins said.

There was some opposition.

Alderwoman Karen Young said she doesn’t like the plan.

When the original deal was made to name the stadium after Harry Grove, it was done after the city ran out of money to finish construction.

Then-Mayor Ron Young, the alderwoman’s husband, approached the county — to no avail.

Grove’s son, in honor of his father’s love of baseball, agreed to pay $250,000 to finish the construction. According to the contract, the stadium had to be named “The Harry Grove Stadium.”

Alderwoman Young said her concern is that adding a corporate sponsor would make the name convoluted.

“We don’t do justice … to the Grove family,” Young said. “This, I think, denigrates some of the obligation we already have. … There is no way you don’t minimize the name of Harry Grove Stadium.”

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