Naming rights

ja:命名権 Naming rights as contemplated in this article are the right to name a piece of property, either a tangible property or an event, usually granted in exchange for valuable consideration such as money. Universities and colleges have long given alumni and other major donors the right to name rooms, laboratories, buildings, sports venues, and other facilities, often for themselves or loved ones, in exchange for large contributions, with the general rule being that the larger the contribution, the larger the facility named.

One early place named for a company is Times Square in New York, named for the New York Times newspaper (this followed New York's Herald Square being named for that newspaper). Wrigley Field in Chicago has been known by that name since 1926, with the effect of promoting the Wrigley chewing gum company, but until 1981 the Wrigley family owned the resident club, the Chicago Cubs, and the stadium as well as the company. Thus, this is more an example of naming a building for its owner than of arranging the name to promote an otherwise unrelated organization.

The modern era of naming rights in North America is often considered to have begun when the New England Patriots of the National Football League sold the rights to name the stadium that they had constructed in Foxboro, Massachusetts in 1970-71 to the Schaefer brewery. Since then, most large sports venues and several other public buildings have had their naming rights sold, usually for a specific period of years, to corporations seeking to keep their name before the public. Some sports historians cite an earlier beginning. It is claimed by some that the Anheuser-Busch company in 1966 proposed naming the then-new ballpark occupied by the St. Louis Cardinals, a franchise owned by Anheuser-Busch, "Budweiser Stadium." When this idea was nixed by the Commissioner of Baseball, they then proposed the title "Busch Memorial Stadium" after one of the company's founders. The name was readily approved; Anheuser-Busch then immediately afterward released a product called "Busch Bavarian Beer" (now only "Busch Beer"). The Cardinals' home field is today known simply as Busch Stadium.

The results of this development seem to have been mixed. Naming rights sold to new venues before they have ever opened have largely been quite successful, as the public has no previous name by which to refer to the venue, e.g., Coors Field in Denver. However, selling the naming rights to an already-existing venue has been somewhat less successful, as in the attempt to rename Candlestick Park in San Francisco to 3Com Park. The general public, and some media outlets, continued to call the facility what it had been known as for over three decades, and the attempt was soon abandoned, although the venue has now been renamed Monster Park in another attempt to overcome its legacy as "Candlestick". San Francisco voters had the final say; they passed an initiative in the November 2004 elections that stipulates that the facility's name will revert to Candlestick Park once the current naming rights contract expires in 2008.

In a few cases, naming rights contracts have been terminated prematurely. Many such terminations have involved some kind of scandal:

  • In 1986, Villanova University opened a new on-campus basketball arena, du Pont Pavilion; the facility was largely financed by John du Pont, a member of the wealthy and influential du Pont family. When he was found guilty but mentally ill in the 1996 murder of Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dave Schultz, Villanova, with the tacit permission of the family, stripped du Pont's name from the facility, which is now known simply as The Pavilion.
  • Major League Baseball's Houston Astros faced a crisis in 2001 when Enron collapsed in one of the greatest business scandals in American history, as the team had signed a naming rights contract to name its new stadium Enron Field. The team hastily bought out the rest of Enron's 30-year naming rights contract and went to great extents to remove all evidence of Enron's presence in the park. The following year, the facility was rechristened Minute Maid Park after a new deal was signed.
  • The Tennessee Titans of the National Football League faced a similar crisis in 2002 when Adelphia Communications went bankrupt in the midst of a similar financial scandal; its stadium was then known as Adelphia Coliseum. However, because Adelphia had missed a required payment in its naming rights deal, the Titans were able to exit the contract without financial penalties, although the team did have to spend money to remove Adelphia signage. The stadium is now known simply as The Coliseum.
  • In a termination not related to a scandal, the utility company Edison International chose in 2003 to exercise an option to exit the naming rights deal it had signed to place its name on the stadium originally known as Anaheim Stadium. The facility was then rechristened Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
  • In 2004, the new basketball arena at the University of Missouri was renamed almost immediately after it opened. The facility was first named Paige Sports Arena after the daughter of two major donors to the university. After allegations of academic fraud against the daughter surfaced, her parents removed her name from the arena, which is now known as Mizzou Arena.

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