Last week, Florida Atlantic University announced plans to name its stadium after GEO Group, a privately-owned multinational prison corporation. The naming, which comes after GEO pledged to give $6 million to the university, has already drawn protests. On the amusing end of the spectrum, some critics are referring to the sports complex as "Owlcatraz," after the school's owl mascot. On the less amusing end, the naming deal has drawn attention to GEO's spotty history, including allegations of sexual abuse and claims that it withheld medical treatment from prisoners. According to The Huffington Post, the company may also have attempted to scrub its Wikipedia page.
As the GEO Group Stadium story continues to play out, it is casting fresh light on corporate sponsorship of sports venues -- a revenue generator that, as many commentators have pointed out, can certainly have its downside. Here's a look at nine of the worst corporate stadium naming choices:
The 9 Worst Corporate Stadium Names in America
Sharing a name with one of the most notorious corporate scandals in history is a heavy cross for a sports venue to bear, so it's little wonder that the Houston Astros sought a new sponsor for their home, Enron Field, as soon as they could. Enron had purchased the naming rights in April 2000, but declared bankruptcy in December 2001. The Astros bought their naming rights back (cheap) and by June 2002, had inked a more fruitful deal that renamed the stadium Minute Maid Park.
While watching minor league baseball may lack some of the excitement of a major league game, it's still a lot more fun than getting a tooth filled. One has to wonder, then, if Manchester New Hampshire thought twice before selling naming rights to a company that brings the dentist's chair to mind.
With its brick walls and huge "Save-On-Foods" signs, Victoria, British Columbia's sports venue looks like a supermarket on steroids. Still, the center is home to two hockey teams and regularly hosts concerts by major artists.
If there isn't a rule about putting an exclamation point in the middle of a sports coliseum's name, there should be. For the time being, however, Louisville's $238 million, 22,000-seat arena bears a name that brings to mind chicken fingers, rather than the University of Louisville's basketball teams, which play there.
While it sounds like a relic from the 1970s, Amway is still going strong, and its eponymous Orlando sports venue is slick, glassy and ultramodern. For NBA fans, the stale direct-marketing connotations of the name above the door pale beside the power of the Magic they can see playing inside.
Beyond its surfeit of syllables, Overstock.com Coliseum's connection to the discount online retailer has a low-rent feel that seems out of place next to its high-rent teams -- including the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A's. Little wonder, then, that it's been rebranded as the O.Co Coliseum.
Even under the best of circumstances, it's not easy being home to New York City's second most beloved baseball team. To add insult to injury, Citi Field, which opened in the height of the Great Recession, was named for one of the nation's more notorious banks. A few months after it opened, the stadium found itself back in the headlines for reasons other than sports when Bernie Madoff's trustee sold the disgraced money man's season tickets to the park. Unfortunately for both the Mets and their sponsor, these days, New Yorkers sometimes refer to the stadium with a more profane monicker that rhymes with "Citi."
To begin with, there's the problem with the names themselves: "3Com" hardly rolls off the tongue, and "Monster Park" sounds like a place where one goes to watch huge trucks run over each other. To make things worse, though, there's the fact that the people of San Francisco chose the name "Candlestick" in a name-the-park contest that was conducted when the stadium opened. Little wonder, then, that they eventually voted to return to the original name to the park.
In 2005, Corpus Christi, Texas got one of the more bizarrely-named minor league baseball stadiums when Whataburger, a Texas-based fast food chain, paid an undisclosed amount for naming rights to its field. Home of the Corpus Christi Hooks, Whataburger Field will retain its odd name until at least 2020, when the naming contract will expire.