This week marks my two-year anniversary as a Kentucky Sports Radio blogger. It’s been a blast. Full disclosure, I also work for the UK Sports Network which is a part of JMI Sports. UK, JMI, and Kroger came to terms to rename the home of the football Cats to Kroger Field. By now many have declared their position on the matter; both for and against. I was given the freedom to speak my mind with no restrictions when reacting to and discussing Monday’s announcement. Here’s my take:
First, I’ll provide some background. UK Football has trained at three facilities in my lifetime: Shively Center, E.J. Nutter Center, and the Joe Craft Football Training Facility. Many moons ago my freshman class moved into the Shively Center upon reporting to campus. The accommodations were modest but it was home. Summer workouts at the old training facility were hot. Weights were moved onto the astro-turf for lifting and space purposes.
Team meals were served in Donovan Hall which is now the new location of the science building in which UK Athletics donated money for construction. Coaches and players had to walk across the street to the Biology Building for team meetings because Shively didn’t have space to fit the entire gathering. We soon moved into the palatial E.J. Nutter Center with AC in the weight room, spacious lockers, and adequate team meeting space. Major upgrades. Progress.
The Cats now call the Joe Craft Football Training Center home where players are provided the most modern amenities imaginable. That building came at a price. We’ll get to that later. Smoothies can be ordered by text after players leave the center’s in-house barber shop. Coming full circle, corporate partnerships were a vital piece of the equation that provided UK Athletics with its shiny new toys. Thus, Kroger Field.
Tradition is a subject that can justifiably raise emotion within a fan base. In my lifetime, UK has played its games at two stadiums: Stoll Field and Commonwealth Stadium. The program’s two best teams played in different locations. Bear’s teams at Stoll Field, Derrick Ramsey’s crew at Commonwealth Stadium. While I’m a traditionalist at heart, the modernization of facilities and improvements for students and student-athletes are far more important.
Remember, recruiting is the lifeblood of all programs. Antiquated facilities can be a deal breaker. Can you imagine Vince Marrow hosting recruits while players pumped iron in the parking lot? Or maybe have recruiting dinners like the old days that can be seen in the below picture.
Several non-football incentives also comprise the JMI-Kroger association as the agreement entails much more than just a name on a stadium. Remember the monetary donation to the new science building? Select community fields throughout the state will receive funds for upgrades. Other features include campus initiatives, pharmacy, nutrition, and health conscience activities which are all tied to naming rights.
I’ve tried to sustain my stance that media types should never tell fans how to fan. Fandom is personal in nature. I don’t like to be told how to be a fan either. So, I won’t try to persuade others to go along with my thoughts about Kroger Field nor will I denounce detractors. I will try to understand the opinions of those that support and criticize Monday’s proclamation. Varying sentiments are ok. I have mine, you have yours. We don’t have to agree.
I’m excited about the baseball team’s success and pending new stadium. Will be quite the improvement from the Cliff. Softball now plays at John Cropp Stadium. UK’s track and field teams host meets on enhanced grounds. I’m happy that today’s football players can train in one of the most extraordinary and lavish facilities in all of college football. The stadium looks great after all the improvements and additions. Again, progress has an associated price tag. Money was paid upfront. See below.
“UK’s multimedia rights agreement with JMI Sports — signed in June 2014 — grants naming rights to athletic facilities and expanded opportunities to market campus media rights like those included in this partnership with Kroger. The multimedia rights agreement pays UK Athletics $210 million over 15 years, including a signing bonus of $29.4 million built in to help fund important capital projects like the baseball stadium currently under construction.”
Thus, I’m perfectly fine with Kroger Field. No, I like Kroger Field.
In the end, the scoreboard is the only signage at Kroger Field that really matters.