When Huntington Bancshares merges with TCF Financial, it will be re-christening more than ATMs, debit cards and branch locations in Minnesota. The Ohio-based company also will put its name on the Gophers' football home, known as TCF Bank Stadium since it opened in 2009.
TCF bought the stadium's naming rights before the first brick was laid, signing a 26-year, $35 million agreement in 2005. The Minnesota-born brand will disappear after the merger, with the new company operating under the Huntington name when the deal closes next year. Here's what we know about how the renaming of the stadium might play out.
Q: What does TCF's contract with the U say about a name change?
A: The original deal, which runs through the 2030 football season, allows for a name change if TCF is sold, merged or takes a new name. The company has to notify the U in writing "as soon as practicable,'' citing the reason for the switch, the proposed new name and the date it wants the change to take effect.
There are few restrictions. The stadium name can't be changed less than two months before the start of a season, or during a season. The university can reject a name that includes a reference to another region, city or state, or one that incorporates the name of another Division I football team, university or pro sports team.
Huntington will be responsible for all costs associated with the change, including creating and replacing stadium signage.
Q: When will the change happen?
A: University officials have not announced a timeline. Huntington CEO Steve Steinour told the Star Tribune the stadium name "will become Huntington over time,'' with the merger scheduled to close in the second quarter next year.
TCF was founded in Minneapolis in 1923, and Steinour acknowledged the need for a thoughtful transition to a name that's unfamiliar to Minnesotans. "We want to be sensitive to the history and legacy of TCF, and the stadium,'' he said. "So there's work we'll have to do with the university and other interested parties.''
Spokeswoman Emily Smith said Huntington is a civic-minded company that views naming rights as a way to support the communities it serves. "We will be extremely proud to see our name on the Minnesota stadium,'' she said.
Q: Can Huntington lock in a longer term?
A: The contract was amended in 2017, adding an option for a 10-year extension with an initial payment of $4 million plus 10 annual payments of $1.36 million each. The deadline to exercise the option was Sept. 30 of this year. The U has pushed that to next September, citing the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
Q What will the new signage look like?
A It won't align as seamlessly with the Gophers colors as TCF's red and yellow trademark. Huntington's signature color is green, and its logo is a green and white hexagon with a stylized H.
Fans will see it inside and outside the stadium. The amended agreement added corporate logos on the field and out-of-bounds area. That brought an additional $8.5 million payment, which went toward construction of the Athletes Village.
Q: Is this a new ballgame for Huntington, or is it already in the naming-rights arena?
A: Two Ohio sports venues bear the company's name: Huntington Park in Columbus and Huntington Center in Toledo. It also holds naming rights within major league facilities, including premium seating areas in Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and Chicago's Guaranteed Rate Field.
Huntington Park is home to baseball's Columbus Clippers, the Class AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. It's also hosted the Big Ten baseball tournament three times. Huntington Center houses the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
Detroit's downtown convention center, which switched names from Cobo Center to TCF Center just last year, also will take Huntington's name after the merger. Its website already has a banner proclaiming "New name coming in 2021!''
Q: How common is it for stadiums to change names?
A: Common enough that fans can have a hard time keeping up. Some changes occur because of corporate mergers or acquisitions, like the TCF-Huntington deal. Some happen when the naming rights change hands. Milwaukee's Miller Park will become American Family Field on Jan. 1, after the insurance company bought naming rights that had been held by the beer company since the park opened in 2001.
The home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars recently underwent a shift similar to the one about to happen here. EverBank Field became TIAA Bank Field this year after TIAA bought EverBank. Thanks to business mergers and acquisitions, San Francisco's major league ballpark had three different names in its first six years, going from Pacific Bell Park to SBC Park to AT&T Park.
Minnesota has enjoyed stadium name stability, however. Venues such as Target Field, Target Center, Xcel Energy Center, U.S. Bank Stadium, CHS Field and Allianz Field have kept the same names since they opened.
Q: How long will it take fans to get used to the switch?
A: Ask Macy's. Better yet, ask Minnesotans who still refer to the department store as Dayton's, 19 years after it stopped using that name.
Dayton's was a Minnesota fixture for generations, so perhaps this change won't be as traumatic. Some people might even keep using the stadium's unofficial nickname. With another financial institution taking over the naming rights, calling it "The Bank'' still fits.