Thunder's home cloud gets some new silver linings

Many improvements have been made to newly-renamed ARM & HAMMER Park
04/12/2013 10:45 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

A larger video board in right-center field was one of the upgrades added to ARM & HAMMER Park this past off-season.(Lou DiPietro)
While much of the focus of Yankees Minor League stadiums has fallen on the renovation of PNC Field in Scranton, the RailRiders aren’t the only ones in the system whose ballpark got a facelift over the winter.

The newly-renamed ARM & HAMMER Park in Trenton officially opened its doors for 2013 on April 11, with the Double-A Trenton Thunder welcoming in their new naming rights sponsors with an extra-innings win over the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

After a negotiating process that took more than a year, the Thunder and ARM & HAMMER, which has been a sponsor of the team in some capacity for nearly all of the franchise’s 20-year existence, officially announced a deal last winter that gave the brand 20-year naming rights for the former Mercer County Waterfront Park and will keep their famous logo on the venue through 2032.

“It was great that they were receptive to the conversation when we brought it up; they’ve been a partner here for 19 years at various levels, and when we approached them and said we’d love to be able to talk about the opportunities, they said sure,” Thunder General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Will Smith said of the development of the deal. “It was a long process, but a great process.”

One of the things that Smith pointed to as a key factor in the deal is the brand’s local ties; Church & Dwight, the parent company of ARM & HAMMER, OxiClean, and several toothpaste brands among others, is headquartered in nearby Princeton and is one of Mercer County’s largest private employers.

“They’re a good partner and a good, recognizable, family brand, but perhaps most importantly it’s a local company,” Smith said. “(Church & Dwight) employs probably 1000 people here in Mercer County, so it’s good for the community and it’s provided us a lot of ability to do great things.”

Among those great things are upgraded video capabilities, which come in the form of three brand-new high-definition video displays; the previous video board in right-center field has been replaced by a much larger screen, and the video board above the scoreboard has been upgraded to include a full LCD display monitor.

“We were looking for a partner for a while to be able to help us make some changes, and, the Yankees asked us to make some updates and upgrades,” Smith said, “and we added these three new boards which, quite frankly, we needed.”

The renovations that Smith would only define as “costly” also include a lot more that doesn’t meet the eye, as many improvements and upgrades were made to the “working” areas of the park that make the Thunder players’ lives a lot more comfortable.

“We were able to put in a video room for the players for the first time, enhanced the weight room, made a player lounge…we made a lot of changes underneath that fans might not be able to see, but, nevertheless, helps us to continue to have as professional an atmosphere as we can have here at ARM & HAMMER Park,” Smith said. “We’ll still continue to look to get bigger and better, and the 20-year naming rights partner will help us there too.”

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And, as great as their relationships with Church & Dwight and the Yankees have been, Smith also credited the Thunder’s ownership group, Garden State Baseball, LP, for their commitment to making the team‘s home the best it can be.

“We’re not boasting about it per se, but our ownership group has been committed to the franchise, the business, the Yankees, Mercer County, and our new naming rights partner,” Smith said. “They’re great owners who recognize the value of putting back into their business, and every employee should be lucky to have bosses that are able to provide these kinds of resources and put back into their business.”

Although the April 11 opener may have been his first day in his new digs, Thunder manager Tony Franklin was one who was already impressed with the upgrades. Franklin ended up with a larger office out of the deal, and as he joked, it “can’t get much better” than the brand new HDTV hanging on his wall.

“It’s fantastic; this is state of the art equipment, and look at me, I’m the manager of a Double-A team with a flat screen plasma HDTV. It doesn’t get much better,” he laughed. “Seriously, you go outside and see million dollar video screens and the in-park upgrades, and down here we have a bigger weight room and clubhouse and eating lounge…all we have to do is go play well. I appreciate the fact that they’ve spent the money to do all this, and we’re fortunate to be recipients of it. I hope the players appreciate it as much as I do.”

And, although his walls are a little barren other than that TV, Franklin knows it will feel more like home in due time – but he does have one piece of flair at least: a large promotional poster for the movie 42, which opened in theatres on April 12.

“(Thunder team photographer) Dave Schofield was in here earlier and said ‘you know, what this office needs is some pictures,’” Franklin said, “so I told him, it would be really nice if you could get me two pictures: one of Arthur Ashe, and the other of Jackie Robinson. And lo and behiold, this (movie poster) is what they come back with. I don’t know where they got it, but I’m forever grateful.”

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