The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville is slated to be renamed 121 Financial Ballpark, the result of a naming-rights deal between the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Class AA; Southern League) and 121 Financial Credit Union. The ballpark’s renaming is pending city council approval.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp owner/CEO Ken Babby was joined by 121 Financial interim-CEO David Marovich along with Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry to make the announcement that an agreement between the team and the credit union has been reached and legislation will be filed with the Jacksonville City Council to put final approval on the deal. In 2018, the Jumbo Shrimp entered into a long-term lease extension with the city.
121 Financial Credit Union (pronounced “One to One”) has deep roots in Jacksonville dating back 85 years, having been founded as Florida Telco Credit Union in 1935. Relaunched in 2010 as 121 Financial Credit Union, the financial institution’s headquarters are located in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood.
“121 Financial has been a great community partner and we are extremely excited about their heightened commitment to the Jumbo Shrimp in becoming the naming rights partner of our ballpark” said Babby. “Any partnership of this magnitude truly is monumental for both sides, and it was important to us throughout the process that we align ourselves with an organization whose values and goals parallel our own; and we believe 121 Financial and the Jumbo Shrimp are a perfect match. Great partners and long-term commitments like this allow us to reinvest in our great facility and most importantly, allows us to continue to provide the most affordable family entertainment option on the First Coast.”
121 Financial has been a marketing partner of the baseball club for many years, ramping up their partnership in recent seasons in becoming the naming rights partner of the Crustacean Corner seating area, as well as sponsors of multiple giveaway nights, fireworks displays and Fan Appreciation Night.
“This is much more than just putting up a sign with our name on a building” Marovich said. “Our board tasked our executive team to find something in our community that can really take our credit union to the next level as far as branding and recognition with a focus on growing our membership all while having a strong community element involved. The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, through their improved fan experiences and focus on family and affordable activities and their overall impact on our community, really goes hand-in-hand with our vision for 121 Financial and we couldn’t be more excited and proud to enter into this arrangement and solidify ourselves as Jacksonville’s Hometown Credit Union.”
The agreement calls for the stadium to be named 121 Financial Ballpark for a 13-year term, expiring in 2033, the same year the current Jumbo Shrimp lease agreement with the City of Jacksonville runs through. In addition to the naming rights of the ballpark, 121 Financial becomes the official credit union of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp along with additional sponsorship and marketing elements. Specific financial details of the agreement were not made public.
The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville opened in 2003 as part of the Better Jacksonville Plan. The ballpark is owned by the City of Jacksonville and managed by ASM Global with the Jumbo Shrimp as the primary tenants. It has additionally played host to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) baseball tournament, Southern League All-Star Games, collegiate games (including an annual matchup between Florida and Florida State), concerts, movie nights, and other special events totaling in 100 activations each calendar year. The playing surface of the stadium was designated as Bragan Field, by act of Jacksonville City Council, in 2012 to honor the legacy of the legendary Jacksonville baseball family who were long-time operators of the baseball franchise and instrumental in the construction and opening of the ballpark. The naming rights agreement specifically ensures that the playing surface will continue to be referred to as Bragan Field.
“The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are deeply committed to Jacksonville and we are thrilled to see that continue at 121 Financial Ballpark,” said Mayor Curry. “Baseball has a long and storied tradition in our city, and that story continues with the Jumbo Shrimp providing great family fun at a great price and in a fun environment.”
Fast Forward Sports Group, LLC, led by Babby, took ownership of the franchise following the 2015 season. The club negotiated a lease extension with the City of Jacksonville in 2018 to guarantee the club play at the ballpark through the 2033 season. The renegotiated lease, which includes a higher annual rent payment to the City of Jacksonville than the original lease, also gave the club the ability to sell stadium naming rights and use revenues from the sale to be used for renovations, improvements, enhancements, maintenance and repairs and upkeep to the ballpark. In addition to seeing record numbers through the turnstiles, the Jumbo Shrimp have shown a commitment to an improved fan experience at the ballpark, having reinvested nearly $3 million in private funds for ballpark improvements in the four years of operating the team and serving as primary tenant.