After recently announcing a rebrand for 2020, the Kannapolis Intimidators (Low A; Sally League) issued a letter to fans Thursday stressing future plans to honor the legacy of Dale Earnhardt.
The Intimidators are planning to open a new downtown Kannapolis ballpark next season, and will rebrand to coincide with that move. Prior to changing its name before the 2001 season, the franchise was known as the Piedmont Boll Weevils, but changed its identity after NASCAR legend and Kannapolis native Dale Earnhardt (nicknamed The Intimidator) purchased an ownership stake in the team. Sadly, Earnhardt never saw the Intimidators take the field, as he was killed in an accident at the Daytona 500 in February 2001.
Last week, the Intimidators announced that the 2019 season will be their last under the current name and that a new identity will be unveiled prior to the 2020 season. The team followed up on Thursday by issuing a letter that noted the high volume of submissions for new name suggestions, while noting future plans to honor Earnhardt’s legacy.
To say that racing fans on Twitter reacted strong would be an understatement, with hundreds and hundreds of tweets opposing the move. Initially Dale Earnhardt Jr. was against the renaming but then circled back with a constructive tweet:
If a change is indeed imminent maybe:
“Ironheads” if they want to continue to honor Big E. #DoItForDale
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 7, 2019
In its letter, which can be read in full below, the club noted limitations that exist with the current branding because it does not own the Intimidators name, but that it will look for ways to honor Earnhardt and his role with the team at the new ballpark:
What a week! Within 24 hours of announcing the Branded New by You campaign, over 300 of you had submitted really terrific ideas. That number grew quickly, and each day our team pored over your recommendations. In all, we received 1,223 submissions. Some made us cringe. Some made us laugh. Many made us stop and think. A handful taught us something new (looking at you, possum fans and those who leaned on obscure mill terminology like “Bobbin Threaders” and “Mule Fixers” for inspiration). Others made us scratch our heads (the “Sheepsquatches?”). They all made us appreciate what a special place Kannapolis is. Even the Earnhardts shared their thoughts, and Dale Jr.’s suggestions were consistent with the views of many of you.
A large number of submissions were related to the area’s deep racing history. We’re eager to embrace this legacy at the new ballpark and feel very fortunate we’ll practically be co-located with Dale Earnhardt Plaza. Before launching the Branded New by You campaign, we had many discussions with community representatives about how best to incorporate Intimidator Pride into the new stadium and surrounding area while addressing the reality that we do not own and therefore cannot confidently build around the Intimidator name. This process reinforced that it is important to the community that we find ways to honor the ball club’s impressive history and its connection to Kannapolis’s favorite son, Dale Earnhardt. Stay tuned for more on these plans between now and Opening Day of the Sports and Entertainment Venue (SEV) in early 2020.
That being said, racing isn’t the only pillar this town is built upon. We spent time in January with a handful of former Cannon Mills employees and came to appreciate how important the mill and its technological innovations were to the region and the world. Hundreds of you emphasized the importance of J.W. Cannon and the Cannon family to Kannapolis. The textile mill is how this area first made its mark on the world, and that’s something to be celebrated as well. As we go forward in this process, we will think seriously about ways to pay homage to this part of Kannapolis’s history, too.
There is an exciting future for Kannapolis to start celebrating as well. How can the new baseball club branding best reflect the way Kannapolis wishes to be viewed in the future? Dozens of you contemplated this question and recommended names like “Dream Weavers,” “Resurgents,” and “Phoenixes.” So many of your submissions spoke to this feeling that Kannapolis’s very best days are still to come. We’re grateful we get to be a part of that future.
This process has been extremely educational for us. We hope it’s been fun and at least a little thought provoking for you. What is it that makes a town tick? What is it that makes a town proud? While we probably won’t be able to capture all of these themes in the team name, with some imagination we hope to be able to honor much of it through the overall branding of the team and throughout the SEV.
When we move into the SEV in 2020, we want to do it with not only new branding but also with an upgraded fan experience. We aspire to provide an experience at the SEV comparable to any major league venue you’ve been to – but more affordable, easier to navigate, and more accessible for your kids. The team has been hard at work coming up with ways to make the fan experience better (and it’s important to note we’ll roll out some of these innovations this year at the current ballpark). We are very focused on better food and drink, immersive play areas, engaging mascots and exciting in-game entertainment.
We hope many of you will embrace our new branding and that others will grow to like it over time. In the meantime, join us at a game this year and help us celebrate the end of the era at the current ballpark by proudly wearing your black and red Intimidator gear.
Minor League Baseball rules say we can’t debut our new team name until after this season ends. So join us at Intimidators Stadium supported by Atrium Health for our home games starting this April through the regular season finale on August 29th, and we’ll have news for you shortly after that. In the meantime, you know where to find us if you want to talk, vent, or share more ideas. We’re all ears and we’re always here.
Your Kannapolis Baseball Club & Temerity Baseball
Until more plans about the ballpark and rebranding emerge, it is hard to pinpoint exactly how the Kannapolis franchise will honor Earnhardt. Still, given his legacy as a racing legend and a Kannapolis icon, it seems likely that the franchise will still pay tribute to him in some fashion–even if it is not through the Intimidators name.
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