City report details prices charged by 18 U.S. cities for arena-naming rights

This May 26, 2011 report by Business Services Manager Phil Kleisler of the city of Asheville lists 18 cities that have sold naming rights to their arenas, along with the sale prices and other details.

City Council is scheduled to discuss and vote on Nov. 22 whether to enter into a multi-year agreement to change the Civic Center’s name to U.S. Cellular Center in exchange for investments by the company.

———Thanks to Gordon Smith on Scrutiny Hooligans for the link to the staff report (PDF).

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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism.

14 thoughts on “City report details prices charged by 18 U.S. cities for arena-naming rights

  1. Barry Summers

    OK, just for perspective, try this:

    Only look at multi-year deals.
    Only look at indoor facilities.
    Throw out the highest & lowest.
    Adjust all amounts for inflation to 2011 dollars (where starting year is given.)
    http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

    This is the average you’ll get:

    $360,000 per year.

  2. Barry Summers

    As I’ve said, I’m against naming rights in general. But I’m especially against them being negotiated in secret. Why? For one thing, I suspect we’re selling Asheville’s soul dirt cheap here. This deal isn’t even half the value of the comparable examples cited here by City Staff.

  3. sharpleycladd

    With great goodwill to all of our Council members:

    I think selling naming rights to the Civic Center is a bad idea in marketing terms. It makes Asheville look a little bit more like the places people travel here to escape, and cheapens the dream we’re selling here: Yes, you can have a community where small businesses do well, where people do their dreams, where the community supports local artisans and businesses. If you’re in Charlotte or Atlanta, you’ll pay good money to escape to that. We’re coming off one of the biggest autumn tourist seasons ever, and monkeying with the atmospherics may not be a good idea.

    But if you should sell naming rights, please get top dollar. Disregard the age and condition of the facility. This is Asheville, not Saskatoon or Kentucky. Millions of people live within a few hours’ drive, and, yes, they most assuredly drive here.

    Rather than the age of the facility, consider impressions: A brand new facility in central Kentucky cannot deliver one-tenth the eyeballs that our Civic Center can.

    I’ll freely admit our Civic Center is a piece of crap until you hire me to sell advertising space on it for top dollar.

  4. Barry Summers

    Gordon, of the eight examples I averaged, only one is a) an indoor venue, b) a multi-year naming rights deal, and c) built previous to 1990:

    The US Cellular Arena in Milwaukee, built in 1950. Signed in 2007, that naming rights deal brings the City of Milwaukee $340,000, although an un-specified portion of that is in “wireless services”.

    BTW, since we all know that corporations are people, and sometimes ‘people’ get too old and feeble to prevent some younger ‘person’ from knocking them down and taking their stuff, there are these updates in “Naming-Rights Land”, just from the last year:

    The “Ford Center” in Oklahoma has been re-named the “Chesapeake Energy Arena” since July 2011, and the “Carolina First Arena” in Charleston has been re-named the “Toronto Dominion Bank Arena” since 2010. Who knows what any of them will be called next year. They just don’t have anything to do with the communities that built them.

    • Barry Summers

      Should read:

      “…that naming rights deal brings the City of Milwaukee $340,000 per year, over twice what the Civic Center deal gets Asheville from the same company, US Cellular…”

  5. Charlie88

    The Civic Center is worth perhaps $40 million or thereabouts, and the City has recently put a few million in, as has the county and the TDA. So an advertising buy by U.S. Cellular of $1.3 million is a small part of the cost. How can we justify naming it for them?

    Naming rights are a kind of fraud on the public. The impression left by a name on a building is that the entity for whom it is named built it. Or inspired it. Or paid for it.

    What is happening here is a corporation is trying to buy advertising. Now we can assist that corporation in its advertising goals or we cannot, but let

  6. Mike Ashworth

    Would population also be a consideration? Milwaukee, as mentioned above might be five times larger than Asheville…? If I could buy the naming rights I’d call it Asheville Civic Center.

  7. Dionysis

    The more one looks at this deal, the less appealing it seems, both in terms of the relatively small amount the City is willing to accept to diminish its identify, and the apparently secretive manner in which it was done. Asheville is a cheap date.

    And, having lived in places that did this, sharpleycladd’s point that “It makes Asheville look a little bit more like the places people travel here to escape, and cheapens the dream weТre selling here” is correct.

  8. Barry Summers

    The Golden Goose that drives Asheville’s tourism economy is our reputation for being independent, unique, weird, offbeat… different.

    I travel a lot around the Southeast for work, and everywhere I go, people say, “Oh, we love Asheville.” People all over follow happenings here, because it’s the kind of town they’d want to live in – it’s different. I was doing a craft show in West Palm Beach FL last spring, and a woman walked by my booth & noticed my sign. She stopped & stuck her head in, and said, “What are you doing here? You’re missing the Big Love festival!” She follows Asheville on Facebook. People all over follow what happens here. Why do you think US Cellular is so eager to put money into our shabby little Civic Center? Because they can’t wait to trade on the buzz that comes with the funky, hip, unique, Asheville “brand”.

    What happens to that “brand” when the world hears that we’ve sold it cheap to US Cellular? Naming rights are a bad move, business-wise.

  9. D. Dial

    Spot on, Barry!

    They want to come here because were not “everywhere” USA.

    Corporate is everywhere.

  10. Barry Summers

    BTW, side note – that arena in Oklahoma that was renamed the “Chesapeake Energy Arena”? Guess what they do? They are one of the biggest ‘fracking’ companies in America. Is your tapwater on fire? Might very well be thanks to Chesapeake Energy. Is your formerly-public water system drained dry? Might be due to the 5 million gallons needed for each and every well drilled by Chesapeake.

    This is the kind of ‘partner’ we might wind up with once the ‘naming rights’ genie escapes the bottle…

  11. Dionysis

    It may be that some reading and posting here will attend the City Council meeting tonight when this matter is to be discussed. If so, a review of U.S. Cellular’s 2010 annual report might be worth perusing. When you look at the numbers, it seems pretty clear that this Civic Center deal, with their logo all over the place, signs facing the interstate, even down to “staff attire” (will U.S. Cellular be paying their salaries, or will they remain city employees wearing a corporate brand?), was the bargain of the decade (for the company). They get all of that (and more) for what amounts to lose change found behind the sofa cushions.

    Here’s their annual report from last year:

    http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File?item=UGFyZW50SUQ9NDIxNDgzfENoaWxkSUQ9NDM1MTkxfFR5cGU9MQ==&t=1

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