Unleashing naming rights

Our view : Frederick's Flying Dog Park proposal may be barking up the right tree

August 29, 2008

It's not unusual for a public building or park to be named after someone. Selling naming rights of a stadium, arena or ballpark to a corporate sponsor is something professional sports franchises and even major universities do routinely. But officials in Frederick are contemplating taking the concept one step further.

A 1.5-acre lot in downtown Frederick, the former site of a children's playground, is being converted into a fenced-in dog park where pets can run unleashed. It could soon be named the "Flying Dog Park," not because the city is prone to aerial canines but because it's also the name of a local brewery.

Owners of Flying Dog Brewery have offered to donate $5,000 to the city to help defer the cost of the $40,000 facility in exchange for the name change. The park's sign would use the company's colorful logo but would not use the words brewery or beer.

The city's parks commission has already approved the idea, which still needs an OK from Frederick's Board of Aldermen.

With local governments feeling the recession's pinch these days, selling park naming rights is an intriguing possibility. A spokesman for the Maryland Municipal League says he knows of no comparable example in the state.

In Baltimore, it's not uncommon for businesses, community groups or individuals to sponsor a park (and receive some recognition for it) or for a park facility to be named after someone (such as the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory at Druid Hill Park). But city officials say they have never contemplated naming a whole park after a commercial sponsor.

The concept merits a closer look. Changing Druid Hill to Under Armour Park, for instance, may be a bit of a stretch, but using a donation from the athletic wear company (or any firm) to create a park in the company's name might be a winning concept for taxpayers and the sponsor.

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