United Soccer League (USL) team Sacramento Republic FC has claimed a first for world sport after signing a stadium naming rights partnership with health plan provider Western Health Advantage.

The agreement will officially rename the stadium as Heart Health Park and the deal is designed to bring attention to the importance of community health and wellbeing.

According to Sacramento Republic, Heart Health Park will be the first venue with a name that directly addresses a global health concern. The club also hopes the partnership will support its plans to land a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

Heart Health Park will become a community centre to drive awareness of action around cardiovascular disease and related ailments. Game-day concessions will include heart-healthy selections and the entire staff will be CPR-certified to provide life-saving support in the case of an emergency. Pre-match entertainment will also highlight the work of frontline workers and health experts showcasing lifestyle changes to promote heart health.

The team will also extend its commitment to promote health and wellness by opening the stadium for public workouts with local fitness instructors, incorporating CPR certification into its youth programming and engaging with regional nonprofits to develop additional resources and programming with an emphasis on nutrition and an active lifestyle.

Over the coming months, Sacramento Republic and Western Health Advantage will work with the American Heart Association to launch new heart-smart programming in schools and promote annual events including the Heart & Stroke Walk.

Team owner and chief executive Kevin Nagle said: “Home field advantage is not just about our stadium on game day, but the people and communities throughout the region every day. Our mission is to make Sacramento an incredible place to live, work and play, including prioritising the health of our family, friends and neighbours.

“Thanks to the incredible leadership by Western Health Advantage, we will make a bold statement about community wellbeing with Heart Health Park and continue our work to invest in Sacramento.”

Western Health Advantage president and chief executive Garry Maisel added: “We believe in the Sacramento region, the Indomitable Spirit, the bright future of soccer and the bold efforts of Republic FC to serve our community. We’re thrilled to grow our partnership with Republic FC and inspire our region to make health and wellness a priority. Heart Health Park is symbolic of how Sacramento doesn’t back down from the big challenges, and unites to invest and improve our community day by day.”

The deal has been signed after Ron Burkle recently backed out of a deal to acquire Sacramento Republic, which had been due to join MLS in 2023 as the league’s 30th franchise. Burkle, who was the lead investor in the team and had spearheaded its efforts to join MLS, said the decision was made due to issues relating to the pandemic.

MLS is working with Mayor of Sacramento Darrell Steinberg to evaluate possible next steps for a franchise in the city. A new 20,100-seat stadium had been central to the club’s MLS ambitions but Burkle’s decision to back out has cast doubt over the project, the cost of which is said to have risen to $400m (£288m/€332m).

Heart Health Park has a capacity of 11,500 and was previously known as Papa Murphy’s Park. The club’s first match at the newly-branded stadium will be against Las Vegas Lights FC on May 12.

Image: Sacramento Republic