It’s a new day for New Orleans’ Triple-A baseball team, and that will be more than evident next season when the team’s nickname of the past 24 years will change.
“I think we all know that the Zephyrs name came from the Denver Zephyrs” when the team moved in 1993, said owner Lou Schwechheimer, who bought the team in November, on Friday. “We want to create an identity that really reflects the heart and soul of the New Orleans area. It’s a fresh start and the beginning of something magical.”
Although the Zephyrs kept their nickname from their days in Denver, it worked here thanks to a popular roller coaster at the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park, which closed in 1983. A zephyr is defined as a light or westward wind.
Schwechheimer said he had been made aware of the roller coaster, but a rebranding of the team, part of a total makeover, was necessary. Minor league teams, often sold, are known to employ name changes to generate new excitement.
A “name the team” effort will take place from Monday through May 6. Fans are asked to submit nominations for a new nickname, along with an explanation of why they believe it embodies New Orleans, at ZephyrsBaseball.com. The top choices will be voted on, and the winner will be announced in the fall.
San Diego-based sports marketing company Brandiose, which had overseen the rebranding of more than 50 minor league teams, will lead the makeover, with team management’s input and that of a panel.
“It’s nothing new to baseball,” said Pete Barrouquere, who covered the team as a sportswriter and now is a fan who will be on the panel. “It’s a merchandizing thing, probably. The new owners want their new identity. I can see the name change if they got something that reflects the city’s history or something like that.”
Super fan Tim Vollenweider said he had been unhappy since noon, when he heard a report on the radio about the name change.
“I was there when we won the (Triple-A) World Series in ’98 in Las Vegas,” said Vollenweider, who was wearing a Zephyrs jersey with the World Series patch and had a binder of pictures from different eras. “When I heard about it, I said I have a million dollars in jerseys and caps; they can’t do that.”
Schwechheimer said the sale of new team apparel will bring a much-needed infusion of cash. But the bigger issue is a catchier, more marketable name and logo like those known throughout the minor leagues — the El Paso Chihuahuas, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Albuquerque Isotopes, which Brandiose helped create.
A meeting will take place in the New Orleans area May 10-11 with Brandiose officials, Zephyrs management and community leaders, Schwechheimer said, to begin “creative and imaginative discussion” on the nickname change.
Schwechheimer said there will be no change for his other team, the Single-A Port Charlotte Stone Crabs.