The unveiling of the name of new baseball team in Madison was held at Rocket Republic Brewing Company. The fan voting chose the Rocket City Trash Pandas. Photo: Bob Labbe

Madison City Council discusses new baseball team name

MADISON — Though Madison’s new minor league baseball team name has received mixed reactions, a managing partner of BallCorps, LLC shared information with Madison City Council at their Sept. 10 meeting suggesting that the name is already garnering international fame.

Ralph Nelson presented the statistics of the voting, showing that the “Trash Pandas” option “dominated” above all other choices, receiving 41.37 percent of the overall vote. Second-place “ThunderSharks” came in at just 13.81 percent. When broken down into Madison-only results, “Trash Pandas” received 28.97 percent of the vote, while second place stood at 16.37 percent.

“We said very early that we were going to let this community pick their name, and that’s precisely what we did,” Nelson said. “We put it to the vote of the people, and it not just was selected, but it dominated. I’m very proud to say that we did not name our team—we let the community name our team.”

Nelson said the total participation for Madison’s team name voting was 28,574—a new record for the highest participation in choosing a team name in Minor League history. The number rises well above the previous record, which was held by Hartford, Connecticut, with only about 13,000 votes. Madison also holds the record for the largest groundbreaking crowd in Minor League history, as well as the first name to have a live name reveal. Madison is also the first city to have a guaranteed revenue stream of $1 million, which Nelson said Councilman Steve Smith requested early in the negotiations.

The “Rocket City” identifier, Nelson explained, received more than 200 write-in votes in the first round and was added to the top two identifiers (Madison and North Alabama) in the second round of voting. “Rocket City” received 67.4 percent of the overall vote, followed by “North Alabama” at 18.09 percent. Among Madison-only votes, Rocket City had 49.44 percent of the vote with “Madison” trailing in second at 39.34 percent.

According to Nelson, about 16,500 articles about the team name were published around the world in the day after the announcement, with “every single article” mentioning Madison. Some of these sources include Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, “ESPN Sports Center,” “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and some as far as The Japan Times.

“I can tell you that if our team was, I don’t know, the ‘Rockets,’ I don’t think we’d be getting this kind of attention,” Nelson said. “… For us, national exposure means revenue opportunities.”

Nelson also mentioned that they have had “thousands” of requests for merchandise already. These requests come from as close as home to as far as Canada, Australia, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Brazil, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Italy. BallCorps has noted more than 500 requests for season tickets as well.

In public comments, Greg Rivera expressed his concerns about team merchandise store locations taking sales tax revenue away from Madison. Nelson said there will be a flagship store set to open in Madison by Christmas in addition to the satellite store at Bridge Street Town Centre. BallCorps is also looking into opening stores in Decatur and Athens.

Council President Tommy Overcash mentioned the likelihood that the stadium’s future store will bring in most of the sales tax to Madison.

Rivera also brought up the council’s need to vote to amend the contract with BallCorps to give up contractual rights to the name “Madison.”

“If you are inclined to give up the name, you can do better, you can negotiate better,” Rivera said to the council. “There’s ambiguities in this contract, and you can clear them up.”

Rivera also expressed great concern over the name “Rocket City Trash Pandas” garnering widespread support because of “Rocket Raccoon,” a character licensed by Marvel in “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise.

“[The image of Rocket Raccoon] is a copyrighted image of Marvel Comics,” Rivera warned. “The name ‘Rocket Raccoon’ is a trademark name of Marvel Comics. Your contract does not protect you in the case of intellectual property infringement. … This is too important and too big a risk to this community to not take every moment in this seriously.”

Mayor Paul Finley acknowledged Rivera’s concerns and said the council will have a time to vote on the contract’s amendments once the material is ready.

Bebe Oetjen mentioned her own concerns about the team name before bringing up concerns about damaged and fallen signs around town and a request from several people at the senior center to put benches along the walkway on Hughes Road.

Finley said council is working on fixing the signs, and Councilman Steve Smith said he agreed with Oetjen’s concerns. Council also noted her request for benches.

In other items on the agenda, the council agreed to help Eagle Scout Hunter Goffinett with his proposed project: a flag retirement fire pit for American Legion Post 229 to be located at Madison Veterans Memorial Park. His design includes a lockable top for safety concerns. He aims to complete his project by December 2018. Hunter will seek the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval soon to obtain his last piece of required permission.

The council approved all items on the consent agenda and finance committee report. Many of these include payments for road construction and construction of the Town Madison project. Others include a bridge inspection over Moore’s Branch, a GEO study on a Palmer Road property, a new library parking lot, two counts of property declared as surplus and the disposal of certain court department records in accordance with Alabama Unified Judicial Records Retention Schedule.

The donation of two vehicles were accepted: a 2018 Ford Explorer from Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway for the Madison Police Department and a 2008 Tahoe from Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong for the Building Department. The council also approved a donation of $5,952 from Madison County Sheriff Blake Dorning for the continued use of PoliceOne.com, an online police training academy.

During reports, Finley said the four new traffic lights, including one at Hughes Road/Bradford Farms subdivision and one at Hughes Road/Gooch Lane, will be “coming online and will be in place soon.”

Councilwoman Maura Wroblewski encouraged public participation in a public hearing Sept. 12 at 5:30 p.m. concerning the multi-use path along Wall Triana Highway, as well as an opioid forum on Oct. 9. She also mentioned a vacancy for place 9 on the Madison City Disability Advocacy Board.

Councilman John Seifert noted that there is still a vacancy on the Recreation Advisory Board and urged those interested to look into that.

Overcash spoke of his enjoyment of the softball game with Wounded Warriors, who played with “a lot of heart.” Councilman Gerald Clark noted his appreciation for the recent improvements to downtown Madison and the ribbon cutting held Sept. 7 for those improvements.

Following a public hearing, council approved the assessment of weed liens for two properties: one in the 1000 block of Princeton Drive and one in the 300 block of Pension Row Road.

Madison City Council also approved all resolutions on the agenda for engineering, public works,  police, planning and legal departments. These include:

  • the annual renewal of a software license subscription with Bentley Systems Inc.
  • an agreement and payment for Auto Desk Civil 3D maintenance agreement
  • an agreement with 4Site Inc. for $8,900 for the engineering design of Short Street improvements
  • an agreement with Lawnscapes, LLC for Wall Triana Highway/I-565 interchange mowing services
  • a K-9 retirement agreement for Arco, Officer Patrick Hamilton’s canine partner for the past seven years who Hamilton will now adopt
  • setting two public hearings for Oct. 22 for proposed ordinances that would rezone certain properties owned by Thomas Jay and Hyung Hi Wicker east of Hughes Road and south of Old Madison Pike; and Tuan N. and Helen Pham in the 200 block of Hughes Road; both will be recognized as commercial properties if approved
  • an amendment to a previous resolution that will add $8,000 to cover additional expenses for the preparation of a transportation master plan
  • a proposed ordinance authorizing a franchise agreement with Huntsville Utilities
  • a proposed ordinance to establish regulations for portable storage containers
  • a proposed ordinance to amend Chapter 4 (Alcoholic Beverages) of the Madison City Code to add an urban center zoning district to license categories, which could make an entertainment district possible in Madison

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