Sounds stadium gets First Tennessee name

Bank's deal could reach 20 years

First Tennessee Bank has signed up for naming rights to the new Sulphur Dell stadium that will be home to the Nashville Sounds starting next year.

The agreement between the bank and the baseball team was announced Tuesday morning by Sounds co-owner Frank Ward and Carol Yochem, regional president for the state’s largest bank. The stadium will be called First Tennessee Park.

The parties’ deal is for 10 years with two five-year options beyond that. Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

“It was very important to us when seeking a naming-rights partner — our most prominent partner — that we were able to identify an organization that shares the common interest of working with so many other entities within our community,” Ward said. “We have found a perfect match with First Tennessee Bank with their commitment to sports and to the city of Nashville.”

If First Tennessee's agreement with the Sounds is similar to other relatively recent deals, the bank's investment could fall right between two partnerships signed in 2009: First, Municipal Credit Union executives said they would pay $500,000 a year for 11 years to put their name on the Brooklyn Hornets' stadium. That same year, natural gas distributor Oneok signed up for the naming rights to the Tulsa Drillers' ballpark in a 20-year deal worth $250,000 annually. (Here's a SportsBusinessDaily rundown of those and other deals.) Splitting the difference between those two would value First Tennessee's deal at $7.5 million over the full 20 years.

First Tennessee, which has long used sports as a big marketing vehicle, also put its name to the Sounds’ last attempt to build a new stadium. Eight years ago, it was prepared to pay more than $4 million to name the Sounds’ planned riverfront ballpark. However, that project was abandoned in 2007.

“You will find that our name appearing on this spectacular new ballpark is a strong symbol of First Tennessee’s commitment to Nashville,” Yochem said.

Having First Tennessee sign on to the project solidifies the stadium’s finances and also is a relief for city officials who have pushed for the Sulphur Dell project.

“Sponsorship was a vital next step in the process” of getting the stadium built, Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement.