Thursday, August 29, 2002

N.Ky. team fields stadium sponsor

Car dealer wins name rights to baseball park

By Dave Niinemets
Enquirer contributor

        FLORENCE — Gary Enzweiler has the baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Now he has the Chevrolet, too.

[photo] Tom Gill (left) and Florence Mayor Diane Whalen show off a rendering of the Tom Gill Chevrolet Field. In the background is Gary Enzweiler.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Tom Gill Chevrolet has been awarded naming rights to a yet-to-be-built stadium on U.S. 42 in Florence, Mr. Enzweiler, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball, announced Wednesday at a tour of the stadium site.

        The stadium will be home to a Frontier League team Mr. Enzweiler hopes to have playing by May 2003.

        “It's huge, we can't get it done without it,” said Mr. Enzweiler. “Without Tom Gill or some other naming rights partner, chances are there's not professional baseball in the city of Florence.”

        Neither Mr. Enzweiler nor Mr. Gill, who owns the auto dealership, would divulge the length of their agreement or the cost of sponsorship. Both said it is a long-term deal.

        The money generated from the sponsorship will help pay for the $5.5 million, 4,000-seat stadium. It will feature corporate suites, conference facilities, a party room with hot tub and numerous party decks.

        With acquisition of 28 acres near the Fantasy Frontier amusement park, the project will cost nearly $13 million. In August, Mr. Enzweiler and the city of Florence reached a lease agreement to build on the property.

        Mr. Gill said he was pleased to become the stadium's sponsor.

        “It's a huge deal for us,” said Mr. Gill. “The big thing is I hope people support me, but I want people to know that I'm supportive of the community. We're going to continue to be a part of this community and we'll be here for a long time.

        “I think they chose me because I'm a Florence businessman and they wanted to have a local business involved with the stadium. It was just a good fit.”

        Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball will build the stadium and lease it from the city, paying 50 percent of the debt service on the bonds the city used to purchase the land.

        Announcing the naming-rights partner is the latest step in Mr. Enzweiler's quest to bring baseball to Florence.

        Former Cincinnati Red Chris Sabo has already been named manager and other sponsors and vendors are on board.

        Mr. Sabo was along for the tour of the site — literally a field — where his team will play, and said, “I'm proud to be involved with this. I think it will go over really well.”

        Mr. Sabo said he has assembled his coaching staff, including a pitching coach and a hitting instructor.

        “We're going to try to put the best product out there and make Florence proud,” Mr. Sabo said.

        A 30-year lease agreement must be worked out before the deal is done.

        “Everybody is obviously confident that there are no more stumbling blocks,” Mr. Enzweiler said.

        Mayor Diane Whalen said the announcement of naming rights is a good sign the deal will be completed.

        “We've prefaced it all the way along that these are steps,” said Mrs. Whalen. “I think they must feel very confident that we will get this agreement done or we wouldn't be here today.”

        Mrs. Whalen showed her confidence by becoming the first person to reserve season tickets. Single-game tickets will range from $5 to $9. The 42-game season ticket packages are $210 to $378.

        Season-ticket reservation forms are available at the Florence City Building, Sub-Station II and

        Those reserving seats will not be billed until the tickets are assigned.

        The next step will be to name the team. Northern Kentucky Professional Baseball is accepting suggestions from the public through today and plans to choose the team name soon.


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