The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 13, 2000 Issue

What's in a name

When it comes to stadia, it's a name game

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

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 team's uniforms.

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.

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