The city of Bradenton may own the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the decision to rename McKechnie Field as LECOM Park was at the sole discretion of the Pirates.
Revenue from the deal between the Pirates and LECOM, or Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the nation’s largest medical college with campuses in Pennsylvania and Lakewood Ranch, was not disclosed. City administrator Carl Callahan said under a decade-old lease, the Pirates retained the naming rights for the stadium on Ninth Street West.
“There is no revenue that will come to the city,” Callahan said. “When we made the agreement 10 years ago for a 30-year lease, we gave them renaming rights as part of the lease. The only right we maintained was that they couldn’t do it if the name was not in the nature of being appropriate.”
LECOM is a long-time partner of the Pirates in Pennsylvania and their Lakewood Ranch presence made it a natural fit, according to a statement released by Pirates president Frank Coonelly.
“LECOM also shares our commitment to community, and we look forward to partnering with LECOM to continue to invest in improving the lives of others in our Bradenton community,” Coonelly said.
Callahan said he was not aware of how much revenue the Pirates will generate from renaming the park, and the Pirates organization did not return a request for comment on Monday.
The reaction in Bradenton has been one of disappointment.
On Bradenton.com, Scott Bassett wrote, “I hate it when sports teams mess with tradition for a few bucks in naming rights.”
Via Twitter, Zachary Harr tweeted, “LECOM Park just sounds ridiculous.”
On Facebook, Lisa Travis Singer wrote, “Forget history, it’s just about the almighty dollar. this is disgraceful. Shame on you Pittsburgh Pirates and the city of Bradenton,” and Matt Burdette wrote, “Always McKechnie Field to this life long Bradenton resident.”
We wanted to make sure that legacy isn’t forgotten.
Carl Callahan, city administrator
Callahan said the agreement on a possible name change was part of the deal to keep the Pirates in Bradenton, “and we knew it could be inevitable. We were fortunate it hadn’t changed in 10 years.”
Callahan said if the name had to change, LECOM is a good fit with the Pirates and the city, and that hall of famer Bill McKechnie, who led the Pirates to the 1925 world championship, will still be honored. The Pirates are naming their recently constructed home clubhouse after McKechnie.
“We wanted to make sure that legacy isn’t forgotten,” Callahan said. “On the outside of the clubhouse will be a plaque, which shows the history of Bill, where he came from and who he was. The same company that does the plaques at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is doing this one.”