Stadium Rename-ium

Dave MetrickSenior Writer ISeptember 1, 2006
Upon visiting my local Sav-On drug store the other day, I was shocked to learn that it was now part of the CVS drug store chain.  The change really annoyed me because my discount card was now worthless.  On the bright side, at least Sav-On didn't own the naming rights of any major sports venues.  If they had, Sav-On Field would have become CVS Field, and it would have taken at least two years before fans stopped referring to it by the old name.
The only thing I find more irritating than stadiums with dumb corporate names is when the dumb corporate name changes to another dumb corporate name.  And this seems to be happening a lot lately.  The San Francisco Giants stadium opened as PacBell Park, then became SBC Park and is now AT&T Park.  Well, at least they consistently used the word  "Park."
Sports venues' naming rights seem to be changing hands overnight because of expiring contracts or business mergers.  As a sports fan, I find this constant name changing very troubling.  Seriously, is it too much to ask that my local arena have the same name for more than a year?  This is why I'm taking this opportunity to ask every commissioner in sports to implement rules regulating corporate naming.  I know in principle this goes against market economics and everything American, but hear me out.  If David Stern can say what an NBA player can and cannot wear on the bench, there's no reason he can't set up some simple guidelines for his franchises to abide by when it comes to naming rights.
Rule #1 — The Company Buying Your Stadium or Arena's Naming Rights Must Sign a 10-Year Contract
As fans, we spend a ridiculous amount of money to get into these stadiums.  The least you can do is guarantee us that the venue will maintain its name for, at minimum, a decade.   Personally, I'd prefer a twenty-year contract, but ten years is reasonable.  And there shall be no clauses allowing the company to opt out early like Edison International did in Anaheim.  Once the ink has dried, the only way a company can get out of their naming obligation is if said company becomes an economic disaster and the poster child for corporate greed and mismanagement.  You know, like Enron Field in Houston.
Rule #2 — Your Stadium Cannot Be Named After a Financial/Banking Institution or a Telecommunications Company
These companies are constantly being bought and sold.  Think about it.  How many times have you gotten a letter in the mail saying your credit card or cell phone company is changing hands?  It happens all the time.  Unfortunately, roughly a quarter of the stadiums in the four major sports are named after these types of institutions.  Because of that, arenas and stadiums in Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Antonio and Washington have all undergone name changes in the last few years.  I'd bet everything I own that in five years, Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field will be named after whichever telecommunications giant swallows up that company.
Rule #3 — Whenever Possible, the Name Should be that of a Local Company

When your team is selling out to the highest bidder, it's a little easier to swallow if the name has some connection with the city.  Specifically, I like names like Heinz Field in Pittsburgh and Ford Field in Detroit.  I think the Dallas Mavericks' home, American Airlines Center, is named appropriately since 85% of the airline's flights seem to go through Dallas.  I'm also a big fan of Coors Field, Miller Park and Busch Stadium — not only because they're named after local companies, but also because they're named after beer.  Granted, we're talking about crappy, mass-produced American beer, but beer nonetheless.
Rule #4 — The Name Has to Have a Ring to It
If a company is going to spend a small fortune to get its name on a stadium, it is probably in its best interest if the name is easy to pronounce and the fans don't mind saying it.  It should be as short as humanly possible and roll off the tongue — United Center (Chicago), RCA Dome (Indianapolis), Phillips Arena (Atlanta).  See?  Easy.  Unfortunately, there are some monstrosities out there — Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte), TD Banknorth Garden (Boston), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia).  If it's impossible to have a nice, short name, I'll let it slide if it can have a cool nickname.  I didn't mind Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix because you could call it the "Bob," or Edison International Field in Anaheim, which was the "Ed."  Of course, both of those stadiums have new names now.  Imagine that.
Look, I'm realistic. I know the days of great sports venues with names like Boston Garden or Mile High Stadium are a thing of the past.  Hell, I'm just happy there are any stadiums at all that remain without corporate names.  All I'm saying is that the powers that be in sports could make this mass commercialism easier for the fans to stomach if they agreed to set up some naming rights guidelines.  In the meantime, I look forward to someday seeing a World Series played at Proctor & Gamble Field in Citicorp Stadium at the Verizon Entertainment Complex.  Say that three times fast.