It’s one big secret — how much the less-than-well-known Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co. is paying to secure naming rights at the 6-year-old Veterans Memorial Stadium, the city-owned, minor-league ball park.
The stadium’s principal tenant, the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ Class A baseball team, declined to disclose the details of the five-year naming rights deal this week as did the Englewood, N.J.-based popcorn company.
The secrecy comes, apparently, because the Kernels — run by a private board of owners who long have identified themselves as 60 or so community baseball lovers — feels the details of the naming rights deal are between it and the popcorn company.
No matter that the ball team is inextricably entangled with the city’s City Council and the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, which lease the city’s still-debt-ridden ball park to the team and its board.
Just four years ago, in fact, the City Council was forced to come to the ball team’s rescue because the team couldn’t make its lease payments to the city. The council and the Veterans Memorial Commission renegotiated the lease and assumed a debt burden extending out more than 40 years so that the team could cut its annual lease payments.
Now, how are taxpayers going to know how these payments might be refashioned if the revenue stream coming to the ball club from the popcorn name aren’t known?
Of course, naming rights always brings with it something of a burden to the fan. In this instance, fans will have to endure the constant repeating of the Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co. Field designation, all of the company signage and all of its products. Is it so much to ask to know what how much that is worth to the ball club?
Implicit in any kind of naming-rights deal, too, is that news operations begin using the name in stories about the facilities or parks or fields. For the time being, at least right here, it’s going to remain Veterans Memorial Stadium out there and not the Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co. Field at the stadium.
The city and its Five Seasons Facilities Commission have had no difficulty disclosing the details of the naming-rights deal at the city’s downtown arena, The U.S. Cellular Center. A new deal with the company signed in January will bring in a $130,000 annual fee in 2008, $133,900 in 2009 and $137,917 in 2010.
City Manager Jim Prosser on Friday initially referred naming-rights questions to Peter Welch, a local attorney and chairman of the city’s Veterans Memorial Commission, which oversees the city’s ball park. Prosser subsequently said he would refer it on to the City Council as well.
Welch on Friday said he and the commission, too, want to know the specifics of the naming-rights deal at the city’s stadium.
“The ball club doesn’t want to share its financial information,” Welch said.
Of some fascination, the Dale and Thomas Popcorn Co.’s original name was “Popcorn, Indiana.” That was until it formed a partnership in recent years with Isiah Thomas, the former NBA and University of Indiana basketball star who now is president of the New York Knicks. The popcorn is named for him and Dale Humphrey, a one-time Indiana popcorn farmer.