Stadium Names: The Costly, the Abandoned and the Weird

AT&T Stadium the home of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington Texas USA
Tim Dahl/Alamy

To those of us of a certain age, naming rights just don't matter. The football stadium in Denver will always be Mile High Stadium. The iconic former baseball field in San Francisco will always be Candlestick Park. The baseball stadium in Boston will always be Fenway Park.

Unfortunately, naming rights are essential in today's market. Franchises in the four major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL) are racking up multi-million dollar naming rights deals, and NASCAR has always thrived on sponsorships. Even college sports arenas are joining the trend. Consider these interesting facts about naming rights.
  • MLB holdouts. Currently, only nine of the 30 baseball stadiums have not sold naming rights: Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Marlins Park, Nationals Park, Wrigley Field, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Angel Stadium of Anaheim and Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City).
  • Most expensive naming rights. The current champion may be the soccer juggernaut Real Madrid. The UAE's International Petroleum Investment Co. has signed a deal for naming rights to the soon-to-be renovated and renamed Santiago Bernabeu Stadium for €500 million (around $570 million). The naming rights to the Dallas Cowboys football stadium went for an estimated $400-$600 million in the transfer to AT&T Stadium, while it cost $400 million each for MetLife Stadium (the New Jersey home of football's New York Jets and Giants) and Citi Field (home of the baseball New York Mets).
  • Unfortunate names. Remembers Enron Field in Houston, which underwent a quick change to Minute Maid Park after the Enron scandal? Citi Field in New York is not far behind. It opened during the Great Recession when Citigroup's name was not held in high regard -- nor were the Mets. Football is not spared, either. By the time the Rams moved to their new stadium in St. Louis, the Trans World Dome, TWA had just gone through bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Strange naming rights. For a time, the Miami Marlins played in Land Shark Stadium. The Corpus Christi Hooks (AA affiliate of the Houston Astros) play in Whataburger Field. The University of Louisville basketball teams play in the KFC Yum Center. Fresno State plays in the Save Mart Center. How about the Smoothie King Center, where the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans play (and for that matter, how about Pelicans as a name)? Our all-time favorite is from English soccer: the short-lived Bargain Booze Stadium in Northwich, England. If that is your stadium name, you had better be prepared to live up to it.
  • Whoops, try that again. Mizzou Arena on the campus of the University of Missouri was originally slated to be named Paige Arena after the daughter of major contributors Bill and Nancy Laurie. Unfortunately, Paige was found to have falsely claimed a degree she never earned, and the resulting uproar caused Mizzou to withdraw the request. Another scuttled deal involved Florida Atlantic University. The naming rights to the FAU stadium were sold to the GEO group. The football team's play-by-play announcer inadvertently blew the deal by combining GEO's core business (operation of private prisons) with the team's mascot (the Owls) to coin the new stadium "Owlcatraz."
  • College football bowl games. We are fortunate to live in times that bring us the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. Older bowl game names were equally bizarre. The independence Bowl is a great example of how lesser tier bowls struggle to maintain corporate sponsorship and survive. It went from Poulan Weedeater to Sanford, Mainstay, PetroSun and Advocare before settling in with the Duck Commander last year. Maybe now that relations are being renewed with Cuba, the Bacardi Bowl will be revived. The last one was held in 1946 with Southern Mississippi beating Havana University 55-0.
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