A call to name their ballpark after Luke Easter has attracted attention, but the Buffalo Bisons (Class AAA; International League) believe that naming-rights revenue is essential to facility upkeep.
The Bisons’ home ballpark is currently known as Coca-Cola Field, but the naming rights agreement behind that moniker will expire after the 2018 season. Coca-Cola Bottling has already announced that it will not renew the agreement, leaving the City of Buffalo to pursue a new naming rights partner for 2019 and beyond.
In light of the pending name change, Buffalo News columnist Sean Kirst has suggested naming the facility Luke Easter Park. Born in Mississippi at a time when the state was under Jim Crow laws, Easter went on to play a stint in the Negro Leagues before debuting in the majors in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians. He would later play for the Bisons, spending three-plus seasons with the team and cementing his place in Buffalo baseball lore by hitting some tape measure home runs at Offermann Stadium.
Easter’s number 25 has been retired by the Bisons, but Kirst suggests honoring Easter further by working his name into the ballpark, which could include tacking Luke Easter Park onto a corporate sponsor’s name:
What if the naming rights began with the title of that particular company …
Then ended with Luke Easter Park?
The ballpark would take on a permanent name, a lasting sense of place in the baseball pantheon. The particular company would buy itself generations of civic goodwill.
Kirst’s suggestion has gathered some attention locally. In response, however, the Bisons have emphasized that finding a corporate naming-rights partner is a must to maintain their home.
Coca-Cola Field originally opened in 1988, and has held up nicely over the years in comparison to other Class AAA facilities. The cost of maintaining the ballpark is one motivator for landing a new naming-rights deal, as the sponsorship could lead to an influx of revenue that is directed back into upkeep of the facility. That is according to Bisons vice president and general manager Michael Buczkowski, who explained that position to WBFO:
With Buffalo’s downtown ballpark about to secure its fifth name since opening as Pilot Field in 1988, would the team consider honoring Luke Easter? Buczkowski replied that the team, which assumed responsibility for daily ballpark operations several years ago when its lease with the City of Buffalo was revised, simply cannot afford to give up the revenue that would be generated through a corporate naming rights deal.
“I don’t think there are many ballparks remaining that do not have a naming rights deal and for really the same reason,” he said. “The care, the operation and the maintenance of this ballpark is a challenge. It does [cost] money. The ballpark is now 31 years old, so it’s not getting any easier to maintain. It requires more attention.”
The Coca-Cola Field name will remain intact through the 2018 season. The ballpark originally opened as Pilot Field, with naming rights sold to Pilot Air Freight, and later naming rights deals would lead to North AmeriCare Park and Dunn Tire Park.
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