(by Ianthe Jeanne Dugan, The Wall Street Journal, WSJ.com) – Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter flew into orbit nearly 50 years ago. Now, he could be grounded in his native Boulder, Colo.
Scott Carpenter Park could be renamed if a company or wealthy donor makes a good offer, as Boulder prepares to follow other municipalities that are selling naming rights to bridge budget gaps.
Sports complexes, hospitals and the like long have been renamed after big sponsors. Now, the name game is hitting more public places.
Hundreds of naming rights are up for sale nationwide at schools, parks, government buildings and boat launches, as money problems among cities and states create monuments such as Chicago’s BP Bridge and AT&T Plaza.
Such deals don’t offer corporations the high profile they get at stadiums in front of national television cameras -or bring in the same level of cash for naming rights-but they boost local presence.
Mass-transit stations are a hot spot. Chicago, a pioneer of the idea of naming public spaces after corporate sponsors with its Millennium Park, is soliciting bids for naming rights to bus routes and train lines. The city has already cut a marketing deal with Apple Inc. for a station the computer giant renovated near one of its stores.
In New York, Barclays PLC bought naming rights to the Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street subway stop in Brooklyn, and will tag its name to the end of that stop, which is near an arena under construction that will also bear the bank’s name.
Philadelphia recently did away with the name of a station altogether, after AT&T Corp. paid about $3 million. Pattison Avenue terminus-the street was named for a 19th-century Pennsylvania governor-is now AT&T Station.
Critics say splattering a station with a corporate name dishonors historic citizens and causes geographic confusion.
“The whole situation raises the frightening prospect in the near future that, instead of riding the Broad Street Subway from City Hall to Pattison, people will take the Coca-Cola Trolley from Pizza Hut to AT&T,” Yonah Freemark, a transportation writer, groused in a blog.
AT&T spokeswoman Alexa Kaufman said the renaming connects the community with its teams, because the stop is at the city’s major sports complex where other companies have their names on various facilities, and “helps underscore our presence in the Philadelphia region.”
Similar brouhahas are spilling into recreation areas. More than 20 states now are mulling corporate park sponsorships, said Philip McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Parks Directors. Some have cut deals.
In Virginia and Maryland, the “North Face” logo adorns some trail markers in public parks. After forests were devastated by wildfires this year in California, Coca-Cola Co. planted trees and was allowed to erect a logo at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Nestle SA is building playgrounds in several New York state parks and emblazoning the name of its Juicy Juice brand on signs. Not to be outdone, juice rival Odwalla made a deal that would give it a presence in all 50 states through a tree-planting program.
Schools also are getting in on the action. When school opened in Sun Prairie, Wis., this fall, students met in the “Fenske” courtyard, then filed into the “Tubbs” classroom-both named after families-and played in a gym where the scoreboards trumpet “Hallman Lindsay Paints Inc.”
In Camp Hill, Pa., officials are offering to name two gyms for $250,000 each, the library for $150,000, and the high-school counseling office for $15,000. Similar moves are afoot in Harrisburg, the near-bankrupt state capital, along with many other districts around the country.
In Newtonville, Mass., residents wrote to the school protesting a plan to sell the very name of the school.
“Let them sell the lockers, the pool, the restrooms-but not the name of the school,” said William Huddleston, a retired clinical psychologist in Newtonville. “The notion that one would sell their name for money reinforces to children that everything is for sale.”
The brouhaha hit Boulder in November, when officials sent a memo to the city council outlining a new policy.
Nobody’s marketing naming rights, said Carl Castillo, a policy adviser to the city. But officials are now ready if a corporation wants to buy naming rights to, say, Scott Carpenter Park, with its rocket-themed playground, or the Dairy Center for the Arts.
Richard Polk, Dairy Center chairman, said the city was trying to balance purism with pragmatism. “Let’s say someone walked up to us and said: ‘Here’s $4 million; we want to rename it Pepsi Center,’ ” he said. “That would be very hard for us to turn away in this economy.”
Write to Ianthe Jeanne Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. Visit the website at wsj.com.
1. Sports complexes, hospitals and other privately owned places have long been renamed after big corporate sponsors. List the types of public places whose names are now up for sale.
2. Why are local governments selling naming rights to public places in their municipalities?
3. For what reasons are critics opposed to selling the names of public places to the highest corporate bidder?
4. How does corporate sponsor AT&T defend this new naming practice?
5. From para. 17: William Huddleston, a retired clinical psychologist from Massachusetts said “Let them sell the lockers, the pool, the restrooms-but not the name of the school. The notion that one would sell their name for money reinforces to children that everything is for sale.”
Think about the reasons for and against renaming public places after the corporation or individual who is the highest bidder.
a) Do you support/oppose the practice of raising money by renaming some, or all public places? Explain your answer.
b) Do you agree with Mr. Huddleston’s assertion? Explain your answer.
c) If municipalities don’t get needed money from selling the naming rights of various places, how should they balance their budgets (amount spent by a municipality = the amount taken in)?
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