It was like a magic act performed on campus last week when officials yanked a sheet off a large picture of Commonwealth Stadium to reveal the rendering of the new name: “Kroger Field.”
But it takes quite a bit more than that to formally alter the name of a 44-year-old venue that sits in a conspicuous place in the city and on campus.
There’s quite a bit of physical, emotional and digital magic still to be done.
“Obviously there’s a lot of roads to go down, but we’re doing our best to figure out what those roads are and how to accomplish it,” said Nathan Schwake, Kentucky’s associate athletic director for marketing and licensing.
One of those roads seemed really obvious, but UK had to find a way to navigate it.
It started with a simple question: How exactly do you change the name of a football venue in important places like Google Maps, Google and Facebook Places?
“I Googled it and figured out exactly how that works,” said Guy Ramsey, UK’s director of strategic communications.
Ramsey and others submitted the name change on the various public sites and eventually after enough edits, the “Kroger Field” change became official on those late last week, a few days after the 12-year, $22.2 million deal actually became official.
There are still some more physical name changes coming in the form of interstate signs and those placards around town with the blue horse on top that point visitors to Commonwealth Stadium. Schwake said he’s working through those details.
“We’re needing to coordinate with a lot of different people beyond ourselves,” Schwake said. “And we’ll probably think of more as they come up.”
Signage in and around the stadium is in the works, with all parties waiting for a new logo that’s being developed. There have been plenty of artists’ renderings of Kroger Field and various places that the name might appear.
It’s not as simple as a graphic designer using Photoshop, though. There are a lot of logistics to be worked out as far as signage.
“You’ve got to figure out is there an electrical pole there? Is that a structure they built to hold a sign?” Schwake said. “Everybody is kind of aware that there are renderings at this point, but nothing is for sure until we have those conversations with engineers and architects and electricians and all of those folks.”
Many of the signs around concession stands are digital since the renovation, which makes changes much simpler inside the stadium.
If the name change had occurred just a few weeks after it was announced on May 1, fans might have received season tickets for their seven games at “Commonwealth Stadium” in 2017.
“They were done, but we were in a grace period where they weren’t final yet,” Schwake said of the tickets. “We were still in the proof phase. We’re not having to redo the tickets, just changing some text basically. Fronts and backs. Another month, we probably would’ve been too late.”
Other items, such as souvenir cups and other items that might have had “Commonwealth Stadium” printed on them haven’t been created for the 2017 season yet, so they weren’t a problem.
There are hundreds of branding things to be worked out between now and when Kroger Field opens up on Sept. 9 for Kentucky’s 286th home game in that location.
That includes placement of the corporate logos on the field.
We “have some homework to do on that,” Schwake said of the logos, which likely will be placed on the 25-yard lines, similar to the Southeastern Conference logos. “We want to make sure what the conference guidelines are and what that may or may not dictate.”
Other branches of the athletics department, like media relations, are having to manage the name change as well.
“There’s been a lot of Control-F,” Ramsey said, noting the common find-and-change command on his computer that has been used to locate all of the places on the UK Athletics website where the name Commonwealth Stadium is used as well as in brochures, placards, parking instructions and many, many other places.
“Anywhere where the words ‘Commonwealth Stadium’ are, we’re fixing that,” explained Susan Lax, associate media relations director, who puts together the media information, including the annual football guide.
The name “Commonwealth Stadium” appears on 22 different pages of the 2016 media guide and there are some 40 references to the word Commonwealth. All will have to be assessed and changed if needed. The record book will be for games played at the “Home of the Wildcats,” not a specific corporate name.
“It’s not a big deal,” Lax said of the name revision. “It’s all being played at the same place.”
The various suggestions, like being able to use your Kroger Plus Card to buy tickets, that have inundated social media in the past week have been noted by UK officials.
Don’t be surprised to see Kroger’s goods and services find their way into creative marketing strategies in the coming months.
“That kind of thing is definitely in play,” Ramsey said. “I don’t think there’s anything where we’re going to turn our nose up at an idea. We want to make it — like we said as part of the agreement — we want to make it good for everybody.”