CHICAGO -- For 93 years, the Chicago White Sox played their home games at Comiskey Park. Now, in a sign of the times, their ballpark is changing names, a switch that will have a corporate ring to it.
The team announced Friday that Comiskey Park will now be known as U.S. Cellular Field under a 23-year deal with the wireless service provider that will pay the White Sox $68 million over 20 years.
"U.S. Cellular and the White Sox have forged a unique partnership that will provide the resources for major design changes to the ballpark that will benefit every White Sox fan," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement.
During the team's winter fan convention, White Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said more details would be disclosed at a news conference Monday, but that none of the parties would comment further until then.
The White Sox have played at the current Comiskey Park since 1991. It replaced old Comiskey Park, across the street, the team's home from 1910 through 1990.
In 1909, Charles Comiskey purchased a tract of land on the city's south side at the corner of 35th and Shields and commissioned architect Zachary Taylor Davis to design a spacious ballpark.
The cornerstone was laid on March 17, 1910 and Comiskey Park opened on July 1, 1910.
The new Comiskey Park has undergone renovations the last three offseasons and will host the All-Star Game July 15.
But it has often been criticized for its steep upper deck, and the White Sox have been struggling at the gate for several years.
"Our goal is to create a world-class ballpark that reflects the City of Chicago," Reinsdorf said.
The team also said it will extend its ballpark lease with the Illinois Sports Facility Authority for an additional 15 years, through 2025.
According to a joint release from the team and U.S. Cellular, 50 percent of major league ballparks feature a corporate name.
The White Sox say a major difference from most stadium sponsorship deals is that the revenue from the naming rights will be used for changes within the ballpark they say will enhance the enjoyment of the game for the fan.
And one of those changes is redesigning the upper deck that one Chicago sports columnist has referred to as a ski slope.
At least one fan, Sean Collins, who has season tickets, said he wasn't impressed with the deal.
"Why get rid of the name of a park that is a landmark in Chicago that stands for the South Side?" Collins said from Jimbos, a tavern a mere two blocks from the park.
"Why change it now? It's not baseball anymore, it's corporate ball. It's not baseball, it's business."
Chicago-based U.S. Cellular, the nation's eighth largest wireless service carrier, has approximately four million customers throughout 26 states.
The Associated Press News Service
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