The Lexington Legends countered a cold and snowy Monday with a warm and fuzzy "thank you" at Applebee's Park.
Make that formerly known as Applebee's Park.
On the same day that Mike Scanlon was being thanked for the 10-year naming rights deal that linked Applebee's with the Legends, word came that a new naming rights partner has been secured.
Alan Stein, president and CEO of the Legends, said he anticipates making a formal announcement of the new partnership by mid-to-late January. "Teaser" advertisements will begin Tuesday.
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Scanlon is president and CEO of Thomas & King, which owns 89 Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar restaurants.
"We got more than we paid for," Scanlon said of naming rights. "It was one of the best business transactions I've ever done in Lexington, and that's bar none."
Scanlon called the business decision to move on "about evolution and change, not about decisions to leave."
"The real explanation is, 10 years was our deal. We did so well with it that we couldn't ask anything more out of this transaction anymore, and it's time for Alan to bring in someone ... that will bring more vitality and more community effort, and add even further to the brightness of the park. We will take and we will do other things with the money that we've done here and continue to grow and add to the community with that."
Scanlon returned a ceremonial key to the park to Stein. Scanlon received framed paintings of Applebee's Park and of the signature moment in the club's 10 seasons — when Roger Clemens signed an autograph for a young admirer moments before throwing the first pitch of his "Rocket Relaunch" game in 2006.
Stein noted a bit of trivia — until opening day in 2001, the facility was known as Lexington Legends Ball Park. That night, a naming rights deal was announced for Applebee's Field. At Scanlon's urging, in the middle of the fifth inning that same night, Field was changed to Park.
As for the new naming rights partner, Stein said the deal will last 10-to-15 years, with options included.
Variables include club classifications and affiliations. The Legends belong to the Class A South Atlantic League and are affiliated with the Houston Astros.
A long-discussed jump to Class 2A would increase the value of naming rights. So might an affiliation change. Imagine if the Legends hooked up with the Cincinnati Reds, for example.
Neither Scanlon nor Stein would say exactly how much their 10-year deal cost.
"Big and significant," Scanlon said.
"Very generous and very important to us," Stein said.
(Sportsvenues.com has reported the price at $3 million.)
Stein just completed another naming rights deal, with Werner Global Logistics, for 10 years in Omaha.
Stein said working out naming deals in Omaha and Lexington "hasn't been difficult at all."
"I'm going to guess that we're probably not asking enough money is why," he said with a laugh.
"Mike pats his heart," said Scanlon, as he did that.
"It's not easy," Stein continued. "But the good news is we have developed a reputation for doing everything we say we're going to do and more. ... That all goes into it. We don't have to 'sell' that part of it."
Scanlon remains a team stock-holder and is talking with Stein about keeping Applebee's signage somewhere in the park.