Sporting corporate names

Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: The US Open starts Monday at the National Tennis Center. Make that the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It was just renamed for the legendary player. The USTA, unlike a lot of teams and cities, decided not to sell the name to a corporation. I asked Business of Sports Commentator Diana Nyad why?

DIANA NYAD: The way they put it is they could get, the USTA could get somewhere, they think the value of that name, $5-6 million. And they are not immune from needing corporate sponsorship. They're hustling all year-round to get those corporate dollars in. But as the way Franklin Johnson, the head of the USTA, put it: Some things are just not for sale.

JAGOW: I don't know, there aren't many things that aren't for sale these days. But there are some places where there's been a backlash against this.

NYAD: Yeah, well you know Lambeau Field will probably we could safely say stay there for a long time. A lot of the 49ers fans at Candlestick Park were just devastated and you know it's gone back and forth but evidently by 2008 when corporate sponsorship runs out on the name, they're going to go back to Candlestick and try to hold on to it in perpetuity. I don't know if that's possible but they're going to try.

JAGOW: But you would think that some of these cities really, really need the money. Taxpayers otherwise are going to be footing the bill for these areas.

NYAD: I looked up a list of just how many of these cities have "sold out" if you want to put it that way to names. It's getting close to 100 percent, it really is. The first one was 1972, it was Buffalo and I know you're a Buffalo guy.

JAGOW: I'm a Buffalo fan.

NYAD: Yeah so the Buffalo Bills sold the name of their stadium to Rich Foods. It's since changed. But you know there was only one in '72 You went all the way up to 1988 and there were only three around the entire country and I was kind of surprised by that. Now we're getting gvery close to 100 percent.

JAGOW: Well, Buffalo is a good example because it went from Rich Stadium to now it's named after the owner, Ralph Wilson, but that's a city that really could use the money.

NYAD: Well, you know, it's odd there are just these small pockets. Sometimes it comes down just to the owner himself or that little small pocket of owners to say, 'Hey we can we can get that money elsewhere.'

JAGOW: And when you think about it some of these names are a little bizarre. Minute Maid Park in Houston for example it just sounds kinda strange to me. Although I guess it's better than Enron Field.

NYAD: Yeah, that's a good point. Well you know to me it's analogous to corporations, the Nikes of the world, who are attached to athletes who then do you wrong. A team that wants to attach itself to a corporation that has a good name, you know, is known for American values, PetCo Park down where the Padres play, you know what could be wrong with PetCo? You think all things good: little animals, they do pet adoption days. Well the same was true with the Houston Astros. They thought, Enron, an upstanding Texas company and look what happened, the entire bottom fell out and now they had to sell to someone so Coca-Cola took that up which of course became Minute Maid Park.

JAGOW: Alright Diana, thanks a lot.

NYAD: Thanks Scott.

JAGOW: Diana Nyad is the Marketplace business of sports commentator. In Los Angeles, I'm Scott Jagow. Have a great weekend.

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