Arena name change is part of sports trendWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a sports purist. I don’t like flashy players who are showboats, and one troubling trend that continues to rear its ugly head, the corporatization of sports.
I know sports are a business, but it seems as though the ultimate goal of any sports franchise is to make money instead of putting a team together to win championships.
During this period of corporatization in professional athletics, one thing that has become common place is the purchasing of naming rights. We here in the Glass City have not been immune to the trend as the city’s Mud Hens play at Fifth Third Field, and this past week, Toledo Arena Sports Inc. and Lucas County announced that the new facility formerly known as the Lucas County Arena will now be the Huntington Center.
Both the county and Toledo Arena Sports Inc. reported the deal with Huntington Bancshares Inc. It is a 6 year agreement that will net $2.1 million annually and includes three, six-year renewal options. The naming rights agreement should generate roughly $11 million or 10% of the facility’s construction costs.
In the team’s press release it was a lovefest on paper, where the county, Toledo Arena Sports Inc., and Huntington Bancshares talked about how this showed a strong commitment by the Columbus based bank to the Northwest Ohio area and Downtown Toledo. Even Toledo’s daily paper had a picture of the Huntington Bank mascot and Toledo Walleye mascot, Cattrick, cavorting at the announcement of the deal.
Commissioner Pete Gerken said, “Huntington’s sponsorship of The Huntington Center represents an investment in every Lucas County resident,” according to the release.
Huntington Bank’s Northwest Ohio president Sharon Speyer was quoted in the statement as saying that, “The Huntington Center will stand as visible proof of our support to the greater Toledo community.”
Before I go any further, let me preface my argument by saying that I have nothing against Huntington Bank, the county, or Toledo Arena Sports Inc., but I prefer the name Lucas County Arena.
I want to know what happened to the days when venues were named after popular dignitaries, prominent figures or after a team’s owner.
Now everything is sold to corporate interests. Every contest and promotion has a corporate sponsor. It seems like in many venues every area has a corporate name. Nothing is immune to being sponsored for the right amount.
I am not complaining about the name itself. We sport fans know there are several other venues who have sold their naming rights to corporate entities, such as Papa Johns Stadium on the campus of Louisville University, or the Jobing.com Center in Phoenix, home to the NHL Phoenix Coyotes. Huntington Center is quite tame in comparison to those other tacky titles.
What troubles me about the situation are the reasons given for the change, and what I believe the true reasons to be. Huntington receives advertising for the bank every time the arena’s name is uttered, and the county now gets an extra $2.1 million a year to help offset the construction cost in a down economy. I find that to be the real reason.
If the county really wanted to show an investment in the citizens of Toledo and Lucas County, why would they have not left the name as the Lucas County Arena? It is a facility that was built in large part with tax dollars, and to leave it as the Lucas County Arena would recognition for all those residents who helped make the dream a reality.
I guess I always knew it was just a matter of time before a change occurred, and the cynic in me was surprised it didn’t happen sooner than now. But I hoped that maybe, just maybe, the county would leave it the way it was and honor the triumph of erecting a new facility during one of the worst economic times in the history of the area and country.
As corporate interests penetrate further into professional athletics, it seems like the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Soon everything will have a corporate interest involved, and I want to sincerely thanking you for reading the Microsoft Cheap Seats column, this week sponsored by Chevrolet, Pepsi-Cola, and Verizon Wireless.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for the Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. You can e-mail him at email@example.com. He also can be heard every Tuesday at 11 a.m. on the Odd Couple Sports Show on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA.