A friendship led to a business partnership between South Carolina baseball and Founders Federal Credit Union.
USC announced on Thursday that Carolina Stadium is now officially Founders Park. The two parties agreed on a 10-year, $7 million deal.
Founders Federal Credit Union President and CEO Bruce Brumfield is a Gamecocks fan who met Athletics Director Ray Tanner and baseball coach Chad Holbrook through their foundations. Brumfield was approached about acquiring the naming rights to Carolina Stadium and expressed an interest.
The deal took less than a year to complete, and Brumfield said the experience was an enjoyable one.
“We just built friendships, and I think that any time you can build partnerships off friendships and you have a vested interest in them and they have a vested interest in you, then it’s a win-win for everybody,” he said. “There are not two more honorable, more dignified people to work a deal with that I’ve ever met in my life.”
Tanner said renaming Carolina Stadium will benefit the baseball program and help the entire athletics department.
“We’re competing in a conference that is very difficult, the toughest one in the country, and it is important for us to continue to move initiatives when we have an opportunity,” he said. “Certainly this is a great move today with this park.”
In addition to Founders Park, the USC men’s and women’s basketball teams play in Colonial Life Arena. Tanner said there may be other opportunities to sell naming rights to athletic facilities in the future.
“There are discussions ongoing. I can’t get into any specifics, of course. We have many opportunities at the university and a lot of our facilities have naming rights already,” he said. “We’ll continue to explore those avenues.”
With that said, he does not see Williams-Brice Stadium ever undergoing a name change.
“As I understand it, Williams-Brice is in perpetuity so that, as I understand it, will remain forever,” Tanner said.
As far as what the money will be used for, Holbrook said stadium expansion is “always on the table” but added that there are other areas where the South Carolina baseball program can be improved as well. Also, he is unsure how much of the money will be used for baseball and how much will be used for other athletics projects.
“Coach Tanner and I have discussed adding a few neat things that would increase the total attendance that we can accommodate on game day,” Holbrook said. “But there are some other things too that we’re looking at, from a student-athlete’s experience, from a fan’s experience, that we can continue to make this ballpark better. A lot of things are on the table right now, and as we go over the next several months we’ll discuss which way we want to go in regards to that.”
In addition to the stadium being named Founders Park, the inside of the stadium will be noticeably different. Tanner is unsure exactly how everything will look but said fans will certainly know that they are in Founders Park.
“We’ll have some different branding than we have now,” he said. “Where you’d see Carolina Stadium it will say Founders Park. I can’t tell you all the specific areas and where those points of entry will be and how they’ll be branded, but for sure it’ll be branded differently than it is now.”
Founders Federal Credit Union serves more than 200,000 members with 25 offices and three service centers in North and South Carolina.
The only Founders currently in Columbia is at the Russell House, but Brumfield said that will soon change.
“It is our intent over time to expand our brand in this market,” he said. “We think this is the first step in doing that.”