Byrd naming rights sold

Deal to put Chevy Chase Bank on stadium's field name will garner $20M for expansion

August 24, 2006|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,Sun reporter

College Park -- The University of Maryland athletic department has sold the naming rights of the field at Byrd Stadium to Chevy Chase Bank for $20 million, the first such deal in the country, officials within the department confirmed yesterday.

The field will be named Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium, and the bank will own the naming rights for 25 years. The deal - which will help pay for an estimated $50.8 million stadium expansion project - will be announced at a news conference today.

The structure of the 56-year-old facility will remain Byrd Stadium, which is named for former Maryland university president, football coach and multi-sport athlete H.C. "Curley" Byrd.

Though some programs have sold the naming rights to their football stadiums, none has done so with the field.

"We like to be on the cutting edge," Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said. "I like being out front on this, but more importantly than being out front is who we're out in front with. It's the partnership and the shared values of the two entities that really makes this so special."

Jeff Knapple, a Los Angeles-based sports marketing executive who has brokered major sports venue naming rights deals, including the Staples Center, said Maryland's price appeared to be reasonable.

"One of the major things you have to look at is television exposure, and you have to ask: `How many times is the program going to be on TV?'" Knapple said. "And it would seem that the answer is perhaps five or six times and mainly regional."

Some of the expansion is expected to be completed before the 2009 season. Ideally, all renovations would be completed before the 2010 season.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland approved a request from the athletic department to borrow $35 million from the state in late June, but the stadium expansion hinged on finding a sponsor for the field.

"With this commitment in place, it means we're now prepared to move forward with the plans, starting with the design and then choosing the construction firm," Yow said.

Tentative plans in the first phase of renovations include the addition of 50 to 60 suites and 500 new mezzanine seats for a total of between 2,000 and 3,000 new seats. Visually, officials are aiming to balance the look of Tyser Tower, where the press box is located, and change the color of the Carolina blue roofs.

The athletic department also would like to add seating that is in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act and add handrails to lower bowl seats in the north and south sides. Other upgrades - which depend on sales of the new suites and seating ticket sales - include lowering the field about 30 inches and installing a temporary bubble for winter workouts.

The sale of field naming rights is a possibility at Wake Forest, where there are tentative plans to construct "Deacon Tower" at the end of this season, a school spokesman said. The tower would include 22 luxury box suites and 602 club seats. Wake Forest and Duke are the only Atlantic Coast Conference schools that don't have stadium suites.

Other football programs - including Minnesota, Central Florida, Texas Tech and Louisville - have made similar deals with corporate sponsors, but in those cases, it was for the naming rights to the stadium, not the field.

Minnesota sold the naming rights for a stadium to be built on campus to TCF Bank for $35 million over 25 years, according to a university spokesman. The deal was part of a university-wide sponsorship with stadium naming the cornerstone.

The university expects to break ground on the stadium, which is meant to bring football back to campus from the Metrodome, and begin play at the new facility in 2009.

The University of Central Florida announced earlier this month that Bright House Networks, a cable provider, has acquired the naming rights to its new stadium set to open next season at its Orlando campus. The university will receive $15 million over 15 years. That 45,000-seat stadium will cost $47 million and is part of a larger $60 million project encompassing other athletic facilities and infrastructure.

Texas Tech plays at Jones AT&T Stadium and Louisville at Papa John's Cardinal Football Stadium, sometimes called "The Oven."

Maryland's initial contacts with Chevy Chase Bank began early this year. Chevy Chase Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the Baltimore-Washington area and ranks as Maryland's third-largest bank by deposit share, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The bank moved its home office to McLean, Va., for regulatory reasons in the mid-1990s, but its executive offices remain in Bethesda.

"We certainly like the idea of being able to do anything that supports the university," said a Chevy Chase Bank official. "That support means great things for the community. ... We couldn't be more pleased."

Promotional considerations such as ATMs at the stadium are also involved, but those details weren't immediately available.

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Bill Ordine and Laura Smitherman contributed to this article.

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