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Will "Guaranteed Rate Field" grow on wary White Sox fans?

Though the Chicago White Sox won’t officially change the name of their stadium to Guaranteed Rate Field until Nov. 1, some fans couldn’t wait to voice their displeasure over the team’s decision on social media.

 Some snarky fans started a Twitter hashtag #BetterSoxStadiumNames, where they lamented the White Sox’s subpar performance on the field which has kept them out of the playoffs for nearly a decade.  

User @IamMIdwayMonster offered the following ideas: “Guaranteed Loss” Field, “Guaranteed Disappointment” Field, “Guaranteed Empty” Stadium and “Guaranteed Gunfire” Park.”   

Another user, @Brett_Lyons, chimed in with “I spent $6 on StubHub field.”  

Former New York Times reporter Stuart Elliott suggested “Obama Park” and “Shoeless Joe Stadium,” an ode to “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, a White Sox slugger linked to the “Black Sox” scandal a century ago when players were accused of taking money from gamblers to throw the World Series.

For most of their history, the White Sox played in Comiskey Park, named after White Sox founding owner Charles Comiskey. The original park, which was built in 1910, closed its doors in 1990 and was replaced by a new facility of the same name. 

U.S. Cellular bought the naming rights to the stadium in 2003 in a 20 year, $68 million deal. The company, the fifth-largest carrier, decided to end the agreement with the White Sox since it no longer serves customers in Chicago, according to Iman Jefferson Riedel, a U.S. Cellular spokeswoman. Terms of the Guaranteed Rate deal were not disclosed.

Both the team and Guaranteed Rate Mortgage expect fans to warm up to the new stadium name once they get used to it.

U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago will become known as Guaranteed Rate Field starting in November.  AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

“We understand that the baseball home on 35th Street holds special, personal memories for our fans,” said Sheena Quinn, a spokeswoman for the White Sox, in an email. “Some will always remember it as Comiskey or refer to it as Sox Park, but in the long run, we have welcomed a new, enthusiastic partner who cares about bringing a great experience to our fans at the ballpark.”

Stadium naming deals are not without their risks. Enron, for instance, lent its name to the Houston Astros stadium until the energy trading firm collapsed. The homes of the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens were briefly associated with tech darlings CMGI and PSInet, which fizzled when the dot-com bubble burst.

Scott Stephen, president of Guaranteed Rate’s online division, isn’t concerned that the “curse” of those failed partnerships will affect his company, noting that some naming deals including Gillette’s sponsorship of the Patriot’s stadium have worked out well.

“Gosh, they got the same grief when they changed it to U.S. Cellular,” he said in an interview, adding that the money the company is spending will improve “the product on the field.” “Why would you expect anything different from fans in general?”

Victor Ciardelli, president & CEO of Guaranteed Rate, and other top managers of the eighth-largest mortgage lender are big Chicago sports fans, so any chance to associate themselves with one of the city’s stadiums is a “dream come true,” according to Stephen.

Guaranteed Rate and the White Sox are working on developing a joint logo because the company’s current one features an arrow pointing downward, which while useful for a mortgage company promoting low interest rates sends a confusing message to baseball fans accustomed to cheering for numbers to increase for runs among other things.

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