GARY | U.S. Steel Corp. and the RailCats announced that their partnership to keep the Gary steel manufacturer's name on the stadium will continue for another 10 years.
U.S. Steel first put its name on the stadium when the park opened in 2003, the second year of the independent league baseball team. Tabbed U.S. Steel Yard, the company was eager to maintain the relationship when the original deal expired at the end of the 2012 American Association, said Al Spajer, manager of employee relations for U.S. Steel.
"We've been here from Day 1, arm and arm with the RailCats, so just as happy as they are to have us, we're happy to have them," Spajer said. "I'm not going to say it was a no-brainer, but it was destined to happen, so we're very happy to support the RailCats in years 11 to 20."
RailCats general manager Kevin Spudic said that the Gary Baseball Foundation that was created with the original contract in 2005 would not receive funds under this contract. He added that this agreement includes community outreach projects that would partner the RailCats and U.S. Steel.
"Of course there's an advertising element of attaching the name to the stadium," Spudic said. "There's also a community element of going out into the community and having ours and their name, having that attached to what we do, just the overall relationship of having the U.S. Steel name attached and that credibility."
The RailCats also agreed to a five-year contract with Aramark as food service provider for the team and stadium.
Joel Palashak, coordinator of community affairs for U.S. Steel, said being able to see Gary Works from the park maintains the manufacturing connection with the baseball team.
"The connection is included in the name, but if you're sitting in here regardless of whatever night it is and whatever day it is, you're going to look across Fourth Avenue and you're going to see people at work making steel," Palashak said. "You're going to see an industry that is continuing to emerge, and we're very proud that we have that visual connection that people can see our people hard at work building steel to build a nation."
Spajer said that the park and the team are close to the hearts of U.S. Steel employees.
"We understand we share the ball club with Northwest Indiana, but literally our people, from all walks of life, feel that this is our team," Spajer said. "This was destined to happen."
Also on Wednesday, Salvi Sports Enterprises LLC, the company that owns and operates the RailCats, named Pete Laven as its president. Laven, most recently the general manager of the Arkansas Travelers, a Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, will oversee all three teams owned by Pat Salvi and Salvi Sports.
Pat Salvi will continue to serve as chairman of Salvi Sports Enterprises.