What's in a name
When it comes to stadia, it's a name game
By Tony Staley
Brown County voters will again be asked their opinion on
Lambeau Field in the upcoming November general election. An
advisory referendum will ask what voters think about selling
naming rights to the stadium.
Eventually, it could mean that Lambeau Field could sport the
name of some large corporation willing to pay $120 million
or more over 10 years for the honor and commercial exposure
of linking themselves to the Packers.
Arguments for and against selling naming rights have begun.
They often portray the whole thing as a modern degradation
of sport because it ties our games to commercialism.
Some perspective is needed. First, the Packers themselves
got their name because a meat packing company donated the
Second, Lambeau Field started out as City Stadium and for
nearly the first quarter of its existence sported that name.
So, a name change does have a precedent.
Third, stadia have long undergone name changes - sometimes
for commercial reasons. For example, Chicago's beloved
Wrigley Field started life in 1916 as Weegham Park, before
being named Cubs Park and in the 1920s Wrigley Field after
William Wrigley Jr., who also happened to make chewing gum
under the family name, bought the team. In Cincinnati,
Redland Field became Crosley Field in the 1930s, after Powel
Crosley bought the Cincinnati Reds. At the time, Crosley was
a major manufacturer of radios and became a pioneer in
baseball broadcasting in an effort to sell more radios. In
St. Louis, the Cardinals have played since 1966 in Busch
Memorial Stadium named for their longtime (and now former)
owner, maker of beers that bear the family name. And in
Detroit, the Tigers' venerable old stadium, which closed
last year, was known as Bennett Park, Navin Field, Briggs
Stadium and finally, Tiger Stadium.
Renaming stadia is a common and old practice and often one
with commercial cause and benefit. Of course, these often -
though not always - were privately, rather than publicly
owned ballparks. But the custom is still an old one.
None of this is to say that the naming rights should - or
shouldn't - be sold. The point is that the names of stadia
have often changed and that sometimes the reasons were as
commercial as the ads on the scoreboard.