What's in a stadium name? Money City's NFL park name might be sold

February 17, 1996|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this story.

The Bud Bowl at Camden Yards?

Maryland officials, trying to cut the state's cost of a National Football League stadium in Baltimore, are considering something they had sought to avoid: selling the name of the stadium to a corporate sponsor.

Such a transaction could raise millions of dollars for construction without violating the agreement that lured owner Art Modell and his franchise to Maryland.

"I still don't like it, but it's something you keep in reserve if you need it," said John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Some lawmakers are demanding concessions on what they view as an overly generous agreement with Mr. Modell that obliges the state to build a $200 million stadium.

In lieu of rent, the team will pay operating costs of about $3.5 million a year.

Mr. Moag declined to reveal what he and legislative leaders have discussed, but said a variety of concepts have been tossed around and no decisions have been made.

Legislative leaders said yesterday that selling the stadium name, possibly to Mr. Modell for resale to a sponsor, was one option being discussed.

Those legislators said they are optimistic that all parties -- lawmakers, the governor, and representatives of Baltimore's team -- can reach agreement by early next week.

"Art feels strongly that a deal is a deal, but he is also sympathetic of the position of the legislature," Mr. Moag said.

Modell spokesman David Hopcraft declined to comment on any of the ideas under discussion with state officials.

"First of all, we have a deal. We will hear the concerns of the legislature and listen to them. We have not had the opportunity to do that listening until now," Mr. Hopcraft said.

Maryland's application for an NFL expansion team in 1993 called for the state to keep the rights to the name and any proceeds from their sale.

But the contract with Mr. Modell says the naming rights will not be sold unless both the team and stadium authority agree.

Such sponsorships can be lucrative.

Trans World Airlines Inc. last August agreed to pay $1.3 million plus a 3.5 percent inflation adjustment each year for 20 years for the right to name St. Louis' new football stadium, called the Trans World Dome. TWA's payment works out to about $26 million in today's dollars, according to Team Marketing Report, a newsletter that monitors sponsorships. The Rams get 75 percent; the stadium authority gets 25 percent.

Sponsorship costs vary widely depending upon what else is involved and how it is structured. In St. Louis, for example, TWA also became the Rams' official airline.

Such deals can backfire when fans sense too much commercialism. San Francisco, for example, is rethinking its $4 million, four-year agreement that saw Candlestick Park renamed Com Park.

Other recent deals, according to Team Marketing Report: Fleet Bank agreed to pay $30 million over 15 years to name the Fleet Center in Boston; Marine Midland Bank paid $15 million over 20 years to name the Marine Midland Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.; and RCA paid $23 million for the right to rename the Hoosierdome in Indianapolis the RCA Dome for 20 years.

Marc Ganis, a stadium consultant with Sportscorp in Chicago, said a football stadium such as Baltimore's should raise at least $1 million a year for simply the name, and the deal could improve with added sweeteners.

"They are very unique opportunities. There are maybe two or three of these that come on the market each year," said Mr. Ganis, who negotiated the TWA deal for the Rams.

What's in a name?

Some arenas and stadiums in the United States and Canada named after corporate sponsors:

USAir Arena, Landover (formerly Capital Centre)

MCI Arena*, Washington

America West Arena, Phoenix

ARCO Arena, Sacramento, Calif.

Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, N.J. (formerly Brendan Byrne Arena)

Coors Field, Colorado

CoreStates Spectrum, Philadelphia

Delta Center, Salt Lake City

General Motors Place, Vancouver

Great Western Forum, Los Angeles

3Com Park, San Francisco (formerly Candlestick Park)

Target Center, Minneapolis

United Center, Chicago

* - To be completed

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