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Isotopes Park gets new name

Isotopes president Ken Young, left, helps Rio Grande Credit Union president Mike Athens put on an Isotopes jersey during a press conference announces a naming rights deal. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

From The Lab to a credit union. Talk about an extreme makeover.
Isotopes Park has a modified name for the first time since it opened in 2003. Its primary occupants, the Triple-A baseball Albuquerque Isotopes, and Rio Grande Credit Union have entered a 10-year naming rights agreement, the two entities announced Wednesday at the city of Albuquerque-owned ballpark.
Officially, it is now Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park. The club and the credit union declined to announce the financial terms of the deal.
Fans will adapt to the new name, “but it will take a little bit of time,” Isotopes President Ken Young predicted.
Mike Athens, Rio Grande Credit Union President and CEO, agreed. He said he was hesitant at first to talk naming rights with the Isotopes or his board of directors, even as the credit union had been in business with the club since 2015.
“Because, kind of like the Pit, you can’t get away from that iconic identity,” Athens said.
It was Dreamstyle’s template, renaming the fabled University of New Mexico basketball facility Dreamstyle Arena — the Pit through acquired rights, that made Athens believe it can work. Keeping Isotopes Park as part of the name “resounded,” he said. “We keep the identity of the park, the Isotopes keep their iconic brand, and for us, it made sense that way.”
John Traub, Isotopes General Manager and Vice President, said the ballclub will use “the full name” when mentioning it in public. “The credit union understands that media and others may choose to shorten it for their own needs.”
Young said there have been other opportunities in the past to acquire naming rights for the facility, which is the Isotopes’ prerogative under its lease agreement.
“There were some national companies that had interest, and it would have been easy to say, ‘yeah, let’s just do it,’” Young said. “Financial institutions tend to work out pretty well. That’s really it. And these guys have been so good to deal with.”
While the value of the agreement is confidential for now, the city will get its cut. In addition to $700,000 in annual rent, the city collects 12.5 percent of the ballclub’s gross revenues above $5.5 million each year, with certain exceptions and conditions as laid out in the lease agreement signed before the inaugural 2003 season.
The city’s take, symbolized by the annual rent check the Isotopes deliver in a public presentation early each season, “will … go up really well next year,” Young said.
The city had rights of approval of any name. No city officials attended Wednesday’s announcement.
Exterior and interior signage will be erected soon, club officials said. The “Isotopes Park” sign at the top tier of the structure with the club’s logo, glowing at night and seen readily at outside the ballpark from Avenida Cesar Chávez and University, will remain.
The Isotopes’ home opener is April 14. Meanwhile, New Mexico United, the second-year United Soccer League club that calls the stadium home as part of a sublease agreement, plays its home opener on March 21.
Nick LoBue, Isotopes Vice President of Corporate Development, said the ballclub’s relationship with RGCU went to another level with the popular Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico promotion of the last two seasons.
RGCU then struck a deal to produce its own rewards credit card in 2018, a debit card last year, and a business credit card that is in the works, all with the Mariachis logo.
The Mariachis rewards card proved to be extremely popular, even with a slight interest charge to pay for the rewards. Said Athens, “Members want to carry that in their wallets.”
From this extended relationship began talks of naming rights.
As part of the deal, RGCU becomes the official credit union, debit card and credit card of the Isotopes, though Young said, “You can still use any credit or debit card in the facility.”


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