Wintrust felt it was making a major-league move in the Chicago market when it agreed to take over naming rights for the stadium that is home to the minor-league Schaumburg Boomers.
"For us it's reasonably good branding," Wintrust President Tim Crane said. "They tend to be family-type events. They're consistent with our positioning as Chicago's bank. And we like the people at these organizations and we think they are good value for us as a marketing tool."
Just seven months into the six-year naming rights deal, it seems to be working out well not only for Wintrust but for the Village of Schaumburg, which owns the stadium, and the Boomers, the tenant and stadium operator.
"I'm just really quite pleased it turned out to be them because I feel they really want to be part of the community so much, and I keep saying that but it's true. It's just the way they are," Schaumburg Mayor Tom Dailly said.
"When you're looking for a naming rights partner, it's very important that the company you're partnering with is a great reflection of the same values and the same community that you want to be a part of," Boomers vice president and GM Michael Larson added. "Which is what makes Wintrust such a great partner because they're such an active part of the local community, the Chicago region, and such a great community-based banking system. It becomes a very good quality and natural fit."
The next level
Wintrust -- which has numerous locally named banks around the suburbs, including nearby Schaumburg Bank & Trust -- already had a presence around the stadium now called Wintrust Field. Wintrust had been one of the Boomers' "premier partners" ever since the club's inaugural season in 2012, Larson said, and most recently Wintrust was the presenting sponsor.
But after nearly a decade without a naming sponsor for the stadium, the Boomers approached Wintrust about expanding its presence.
"So their name was already all over the stadium and we were in the middle of the early parts of shutdown and kind of discussing how to go forward with everything and I put together the idea," Larson said.
Wintrust, the Boomers and Schaumburg each agreed to take the next step in their relationship to the naming rights agreement.
The deal is for $250,000 a year, with an option to extend the contract another four years at an increased price after the initial six-year agreement.
"Historically our relationship has been very good with them," Crane said. "We like the kinds of things that they do. We like the marketing activities that we can participate in together. So far so good. We're optimistic."
It's all part of Wintrust's quest to become the bank most associated with the Chicago area, and the bank has established a presence on the Chicago-area sports scene.
Wintrust already sponsors the new basketball arena near McCormick Place in Chicago that is used by the DePaul University men's and women's basketball teams and the Chicago Sky. Wintrust also is a sponsor for the Cubs and White Sox.
Wintrust is not alone in acquiring naming rights to suburban sports facilities, of course. Northwestern Medical Center has leased naming rights to the stadium where the Kane County Cougars play baseball. Impact Networking has naming rights for the Rosemont ballpark where the Chicago Dogs play baseball.
Then there's Allstate Arena in Rosemont, home to hockey's Chicago Wolves. NOW Arena in Hoffman Estates is home to the Windy City Bulls basketball team.
Because of the pandemic, however, the Wintrust name has reached beyond its expected audience. In fact, the Boomers have found ways to keep the stadium busy even though their 2020 season was canceled.
The Boomers hosted the White Sox' alternate training site in 2020 and again this spring, when it hosted exhibition games between Sox and Cubs minor-leaguers. The stadium parking lot became the site of socially distanced fireworks shows, high school graduations and Blackhawks playoff game viewing parties, even a recycling event. Concerts are being scheduled for this summer.
"We applaud the creativity that everybody is using and I would say even the bank is using to try and reach people in different ways throughout the pandemic because this has been uncharted water for everybody," Crane said. "Even when there are not baseball games going on or inside the park, they can see Wintrust's commitment to Schaumburg and the Boomers and the Northwest suburbs. It's not just game-day-type things."
"It's hard to isolate what impact the naming rights has with what we're doing in terms of gathering all these extra events," Larson said, "because we are completely bursting at the seams here with events that we never had before."
Ready for baseball
This year, there also will be baseball. The Boomers' home opener is scheduled for May 27.
"We always thought, maybe timing uncertain, that baseball was going to come back and that when it did, people were starved for opportunities to spend time outside the house with their family and to see a sporting event," Crane said.
But Larson still is busy getting ready for opening day. He's spending lots of time with his sign company, Divine Signs of Schaumburg.
"You'd be amazed how many little things there are that you have to swap out in a stadium, from the big, giant, marquee stat signs to the smaller, individual room signs with ADA on the Braille and all that," Larson said. "There's hundreds of those little signs and there's bigger signs everywhere that you have to go through and swap out."
The Boomers also are engaged in a marketing campaign to remind suburbanites of the stadium's new name. Many people still refer to the stadium by its name from 1999 to 2010, Alexian Field, named for a nearby hospital.
"It's been Boomers Stadium for 10 years," Larson said. "People still call it Alexian Field and we're just now getting people to stop calling it Boomers Stadium and start working toward Wintrust Field."