Beginning on Nov. 1, the White Sox’ South Side home will go from U.S. Cellular Field to Guaranteed Rate Field after the club signed a 13-year naming-rights agreement with the Chicago-based national mortgage lender.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA), the owner and operator of the ballpark, approved the name change Wednesday.
“We are pleased to find, in Guaranteed Rate, a new naming rights partner founded in Chicago by Chicagoans, which shares our commitment to the city and to our fans,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox. “We view this partnership as an opportunity to connect a successful Chicago business with a historic baseball franchise, and we look forward to growing this important relationship over the coming years as millions of fans enjoy White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field.”
In February 2003, the Sox — then playing at their home that had long been known as Comiskey Park — sold naming right’s to their stadium to U.S. Cellular for $68 million over 23 years. When that agreement was announced, the Sox also announced that they had extended their lease at 35th and Shields an additional 15 years, through the 2025 season.
Questions about whether U.S. Cellular would remain the naming rights partner of the White Sox through the length of its deal circulated as far back as 2012 when the Chicago-based carrier announced that it was selling its Chicago, central Illinois and St. Louis markets among others to Sprint.
Soon after the deal, the U.S. Cellular name disappeared from stores in and around Chicago and the exposure it got from being branded across the stadium became far less valuable as its customer base here dwindled. Marketing consultants speculated it was a matter of time before the naming rights would transfer elsewhere.
“The partnership with U.S. Cellular paved the way for a complete, top-to-bottom renovation of the ballpark that transformed the White Sox fan experience,” said Brooks Boyer, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the White Sox. “We celebrated many memorable moments at U.S. Cellular Field throughout the years, including the 2005 World Series title. Looking forward, we will make many more incredible memories for our fans at Guaranteed Rate Field with a successful and growing partner who shares our passion for Chicago.”
When existing naming-rights payments to the White Sox are completed, ISFA will receive all incremental naming rights revenue from this new agreement with Guaranteed Rate, the team said.
“ISFA is extremely pleased that the new agreement with Guaranteed Rate will generate revenue, up to $6.4 million, for the facility,” said Manny Sanchez, chairman of ISFA. “As part of ISFA’s approval process, the White Sox agreed that they will not require certain major renovations during the last three years of the current management agreement. This is just the latest example of ISFA deploying innovative strategies to protect Illinois taxpayers.”
The park which gradually became known as “the Cell” to Sox fans will now become something else. Wednesday’s announcement played to mixed reviews and immediately sparked speculation about what the park will be nicknamed beginning next season.
“Ultimately those things grow organically and the fans will ultimately determine that,’’ said Brooks Boyer, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the White Sox.
“We feel the fans should decide,’’ Guaranteed Rate CEO Victor Ciardelli said.
“It doesn’t have that good of a ring to it,’’ Sox outfielder Adam Eaton said. “I don’t really know what to say about it. What is it called again?’’
Guaranteed Rate Field. Get used to it.
“It will always be ‘Comiskey’ or ‘Sox Park’ to me, so I don’t care,’’ said George Schultz of Chicago, a regular attendee at the Cell who wore a Jim Thome jersey to Wednesday’s game.
“I’m a season ticket holder and I don’t care,’’ said John Janas of Park Ridge. “If it brings the White Sox more money, I’m happy.’’
Guaranteed Rate was in the news last spring when a jury awarded Irvine, Calif.-based Mount Olympus Mortgate Co. more than $25 million in a lawsuit that alleged “corporate espionage.”
“Needless to say, Guaranteed Rate strongly disagrees with the jury’s conclusion, and we are reviewing all available options for an appeal in the case,” the company said in a statement sent to media in March.