White Sox ballpark getting new name

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ByEric Horng via WLS logo
Thursday, August 25, 2016
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The Cell will soon be no more.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Cell will soon be no more.

U.S. Cellular Field will be called Guaranteed Rate Field beginning November 1.

A 13-year deal gives the mortgage lender the naming rights for the team's home ballpark in Chicago. Financial terms of the deal between the White Sox and Guaranteed Rate were not disclosed, but one sports marketing analyst said it could be in the ballpark, no pun intended, of $100 million.

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the owner and operator of the ballpark, approved the change in name at a meeting of its board on Wednesday afternoon.

The White Sox retain an option under the team's lease for the ballpark, which if exercised, could extend this naming rights deal an additional year through 2030.

For fans, the name change came as a surprise. Guaranteed Rate is a Chicago-based online mortgage lender known for its late night commercials with pitchman Ty Pennington.

At the White Sox game Wednesday night Victor Ciardelli, the CEO of Guaranteed Rate, was so excited he overthrew the first pitch.

"The reason why we're excited about it is to be part of the White Sox organization, to help build our brand, build our awareness," Ciardelli said.

The home-grown 16-year-old company is also the nation's eighth-largest mortgage lender.

"To have a Chicago-based company by people who are passionate about Chicago, passionate about Chicago sports, it's a great partner for us to have," said White Sox Vice President Brooks Boyers.

Fans said they're glad it's a local business, but with all the companies in Chicago many were confused about why Guaranteed Rate was chosen by the Sox.

"The Guaranteed Rate? What is that? Is that a company? What's the deal here?" asked fan Wally Beckman.

"I don't even know what that is. Is it a mortgage company or something? A mortgage company. I don't know," guessed Ron Niemer.

"Yeah, 'Me and my buddy about to go down here to Guaranteed Rate Field.' It just sounds weird," said Arnold Conwell, when asked to use the new name in a sentence.

There is also some suspicion stemming from a tweet Ciardelli sent out from Wrigley Field last May saying he was "pumped about another Cubs win." Is Guaranteed Rate's CEO actually a closet Cubs fan?

"I am a huge Chicago sports fan, and I am definitely a Chicago Cubs fan and a White Sox fan," Ciardelli said.

Upon the completion of existing naming rights payments to the White Sox, ISFA will receive all incremental naming rights revenue from this new agreement with Guaranteed Rate.

The White Sox played at New Comiskey Park from 1991-2002 before a naming rights agreement changed the ballpark's name to U.S. Cellular Field from 2003-2016.

U.S. Cellular Field was commonly called "The Cell" for short. So what would the field's new nickname be? Some said "The Rate," or maybe "The GR," but fans still have some time to figure it out.