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The Stadium Curse: Naming Deals Gone Bust

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Stadium Naming Deals Gone Bust

When a company spends millions to put their company name on a major stadium, controversy often follows as the value of such an expenditure is difficult to track. Major stadium naming deals have also seen another trend: corporate failures.Throughout the booms and busts of the American economy, many companies who have chosen to embark on a naming rights contract have seen their companies suffer financially or even collapse within several years of a naming deal. Although external, indirectly relate
Photo: Getty Images

When a company spends millions to put their company name on a major stadium, controversy often follows as the value of such an expenditure is difficult to track. Major stadium naming deals have also seen another trend: corporate failures.

Throughout the booms and busts of the American economy, many companies who have chosen to embark on a naming rights contract have seen their companies suffer financially or even collapse within several years of a naming deal. Although external, indirectly related factors are certainly at play, the correlation is quite impressive: In many cases naming deals parallel a corporate "boom" spending mentality that contributes to a company's weakness when a bubble bursts.

So, what are some stadium naming contracts that went bust? Click ahead to find out!

By Paul Toscano
Posted 20 Jan 2009

CMGI Field

Current Name: Gillette StadiumLocation: Foxboro, MassachusettsMajor Teams: Patriots (NFL), Revolution (MLS)Cost of Naming Rights: $7.6 million/yearConstruction Cost: $325 millionCMGI originally entered  into a 15-year, $114 million deal in 2000 for the naming rights to the home of the New England Patriots, but the company dropped the big sponsorship contract before the team's first game in the newly-named stadium. Another victim of the dot-com bubble, CMGI saw its stock price fall from a level o
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: Gillette Stadium
Location: Foxboro, Massachusetts
Major Teams: Patriots (NFL), Revolution (MLS)
Cost of Naming Rights: $7.6 million/year
Construction Cost: $325 million

CMGI originally entered  into a 15-year, $114 million deal in 2000 for the naming rights to the home of the New England Patriots, but the company dropped the big sponsorship contract before the team's first game in the newly-named stadium. Another victim of the dot-com bubble, CMGI saw its stock price fall from a level of $40 to pennies in less than two years and the expensive stadium sponsorship was one of the first things to go. 

Gillette later acquired the naming rights, and has since been acquired by Procter & Gamble, however, since the household products company still uses the Gillette brand name, the stadium still sports the name.

Air Canada Centre

Current Name: Air Canada CentreLocation: Toronto, CanadaMajor Teams: Maple Leafs (NHL), Raptors (NBA)Cost of Naming Rights: $1.5 million/yearConstruction Cost: $265 million (Canadian)The naming rights for Toronto's major stadium, which is also known as the ACC or the "Hangar," predated the bankruptcy of Canada's largest airline. Four years after the stadium opened in 1999,  Air Canada filed for bankruptcy, throwing the $1.5 million a year rights deal into question. But Air Canada emerged from ba
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: Air Canada Centre
Location: Toronto, Canada
Major Teams: Maple Leafs (NHL), Raptors (NBA)
Cost of Naming Rights: $1.5 million/year
Construction Cost: $265 million (Canadian)

The naming rights for Toronto's major stadium, which is also known as the ACC or the "Hangar," predated the bankruptcy of Canada's largest airline. Four years after the stadium opened in 1999,  Air Canada filed for bankruptcy, throwing the $1.5 million a year rights deal into question. But Air Canada emerged from bankruptcy in September 2004, 18 months after its filing, and kept its namesake.

Enron Field

Current Name: Minute Maid ParkLocation: Houston, TexasMajor Teams: Astros (MLB)Cost of Naming Rights: $3.3 million/yearConstruction Cost: $250 millionPerhaps the biggest and most well-known faux pas in stadium naming, Enron Field was a PR disaster for the Houston Astros after the sponsoring company, Enron, was flung into bankruptcy after its infamous corporate scandal. The Astros had signed the naming deal in 1999, when Enron was seen as a Wall Street darling. Two years later, Enron collapsed af
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: Minute Maid Park
Location: Houston, Texas
Major Teams: Astros (MLB)
Cost of Naming Rights: $3.3 million/year
Construction Cost: $250 million

Perhaps the biggest and most well-known faux pas in stadium naming, Enron Field was a PR disaster for the Houston Astros after the sponsoring company, Enron, was flung into bankruptcy after its infamous corporate scandal. The Astros had signed the naming deal in 1999, when Enron was seen as a Wall Street darling.

Two years later, Enron collapsed after an elaborate accounting fraud was exposed. The team bought back the stadium's naming rights for $2.1 million after Enron filed for bankruptcy.

The National Car Rental Center

Current Name: BankAtlantic CenterLocation: Sunrise, FloridaMajor Teams: Florida Panthers (NHL)Cost of Naming Rights: $2.2 million/yearConstruction Cost: $185 millionNational Car Rental, a subsidiary of ANC Rental, won the naming rights to the home of the Florida Panthers prior to the stadium's opening in 1999. However, in 2002 ANC filed for bankruptcy and the stadium, which is now known as the BankAtlantic Center, required a name change.
Photo: James Baker | Getty Images

Current Name: BankAtlantic Center
Location: Sunrise, Florida
Major Teams: Florida Panthers (NHL)
Cost of Naming Rights: $2.2 million/year
Construction Cost: $185 million

National Car Rental, a subsidiary of ANC Rental, won the naming rights to the home of the Florida Panthers prior to the stadium's opening in 1999. However, in 2002 ANC filed for bankruptcy and the stadium, which is now known as the BankAtlantic Center, required a name change.

PSINet Stadium

Current Name: M&T StadiumLocation: Baltimore, MarylandMajor Teams: Baltimore Ravens (NFL)Cost of Naming Rights: $5.275 million/yearConstruction Cost: $220 millionThe home of the Baltimore Ravens, once known as PSINet Stadium, felt the hurt of the dot-com bubble burst after it's sponsor, PSINet, filed for bankruptcy after only two seasons under the name. PSINet was one of the first internet service providers in the country, but poor management, risky acquisitions and years of losses on the bottom
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: M&T Stadium
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Major Teams: Baltimore Ravens (NFL)
Cost of Naming Rights: $5.275 million/year
Construction Cost: $220 million

The home of the Baltimore Ravens, once known as PSINet Stadium, felt the hurt of the dot-com bubble burst after it's sponsor, PSINet, filed for bankruptcy after only two seasons under the name. PSINet was one of the first internet service providers in the country, but poor management, risky acquisitions and years of losses on the bottom line led to its insolvency.

United Center

Current Name: United CenterLocation: Chicago, IllinoisMajor Teams: Bulls (NBA), Blackhawks (NHL)Cost of Naming Rights: $1.8 million/yearConstruction Cost: $175 millionUAL's United Airlines held stadium naming rights to Chicago's major stadium prior to its 2002 bankruptcy. There were numerous factors behind the airline's bankruptcy filing, including the economic turmoil in the wake of 9/11, skyrocketing oil prices and the dot-com bubble burst, which significantly hurt its profitable routes Silico
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: United Center
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Major Teams: Bulls (NBA), Blackhawks (NHL)
Cost of Naming Rights: $1.8 million/year
Construction Cost: $175 million

UAL's United Airlines held stadium naming rights to Chicago's major stadium prior to its 2002 bankruptcy. There were numerous factors behind the airline's bankruptcy filing, including the economic turmoil in the wake of 9/11, skyrocketing oil prices and the dot-com bubble burst, which significantly hurt its profitable routes Silicon Valley.

Adelphia Coliseum

Current Name: LP FieldLocation: Nashville, TennesseeMajor Teams: Titans (NFL), Tigers (NCAA)Cost of Naming Rights: $2 million/yearConstruction Cost: $290 millionIn 1999, Adelphia Communications signed a 15-year, $30 million deal to name the Nashville Stadium after the company. At the time it was the fifth largest cable company in the US, but after widespread internal corruption the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002, and the naming contract was dissolved. The stadium is now LP Field, after Nas
Photo: Chrisjnelson

Current Name: LP Field
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Major Teams: Titans (NFL), Tigers (NCAA)
Cost of Naming Rights: $2 million/year
Construction Cost: $290 million

In 1999, Adelphia Communications signed a 15-year, $30 million deal to name the Nashville Stadium after the company. At the time it was the fifth largest cable company in the US, but after widespread internal corruption the company filed for bankruptcy in 2002, and the naming contract was dissolved. The stadium is now LP Field, after Nashville-based Louisiana Pacific.

Trans World Dome

Current Name: Edward Jones DomeLocation: Saint Louis, MissouriMajor Teams: Rams (NFL)Cost of Naming Rights: $1.3 million/yearConstruction Cost: $280 millionSt. Louis built the stadium, in part, to lure an NFL team to the city, and TransWorld won the rights to name it. But almost as soon as the stadium open ed in 1995, TransWorld filed for bankruptcy after crippling contracts severely damaged their profit model. After years of financial instability, and a high profile crash that highlighted the f
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: Edward Jones Dome
Location: Saint Louis, Missouri
Major Teams: Rams (NFL)
Cost of Naming Rights: $1.3 million/year
Construction Cost: $280 million

St. Louis built the stadium, in part, to lure an NFL team to the city, and TransWorld won the rights to name it. But almost as soon as the stadium open ed in 1995, TransWorld filed for bankruptcy after crippling contracts severely damaged their profit model. After years of financial instability, and a high profile crash that highlighted the fleet's age and decay, TWA's assets were acquired by American Airlines in 2001. American did not to assume the naming rights for the stadium.

CitiField

Current Name: CitiFieldLocation: Flushing, New YorkMajor Teams: Mets (MLB)Cost of Naming Rights: $20 million/yearConstruction Cost: $900 millionCiti Field or Bailout Ballpark? That was critics were saying after Citigroup was caught in the throes of the financial crisis. On the heels of annoucing a naming deal that cost Citigroup $20 million a year over 20 years , the company was forced to take $45 billion in government bailouts and saw its stock price drop nearly 94  percent  from its November 2
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: CitiField
Location: Flushing, New York
Major Teams: Mets (MLB)
Cost of Naming Rights: $20 million/year
Construction Cost: $900 million

Citi Field or Bailout Ballpark? That was critics were saying after Citigroup was caught in the throes of the financial crisis. On the heels of annoucing a naming deal that cost Citigroup $20 million a year over 20 years, the company was forced to take $45 billion in government bailouts and saw its stock price drop nearly 94  percent from its November 2006 levels. Because of the heavy taxpayer support given to Citigroup, lawmakers began urging the company to scrap the names rights deal. But the company stuck with its plans, and has managed to avoid bankruptcy.

Although this naming deal didn't necessarily go bust for the company, it certainly overlapped with Citi's drop during the recession.

MCI Center

Current Name: Verizon CenterLocation: Washington, DCMajor Teams: Capitals (NHL), Wizards (NBA), Mystics (WNBA), Georgetown Hoyas (NCAA)Cost of Naming Rights: $2.2 million/yearConstruction Cost: $260 millionKnown as the "Phone Booth" as it has passed from one telecommunications company to another, the MCI Center was owned by MCI WorldCom until the company went bankrupt in 2004. At the time, WorldCom's bankruptcy filing was the largest in US history. The stadium has since become known as the Veriz
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: Verizon Center
Location: Washington, DC
Major Teams: Capitals (NHL), Wizards (NBA), Mystics (WNBA), Georgetown Hoyas (NCAA)
Cost of Naming Rights: $2.2 million/year
Construction Cost: $260 million

Known as the "Phone Booth" as it has passed from one telecommunications company to another, the MCI Center was owned by MCI WorldCom until the company went bankrupt in 2004. At the time, WorldCom's bankruptcy filing was the largest in US history. The stadium has since become known as the Verizon Center after the telecom giant acquired what remained of Worldcom's assets.

Pro Player Stadium

Current Name: Sun Life StadiumLocation: Miami, FloridaMajor Teams: Dolphins (NFL), Marlins (MLB), Hurricanes (NCAA)Cost of Naming Rights: N/AConstruction Cost: $115 millionJoe Robbie Stadium, built in 1987, was renamed Pro Player Park, and later Pro Player Stadium after a subsidiary of Fruit of the Loom won naming rights. Although Fruit of the Loom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999, Pro Player remained the name of the park until 2005, despite the brand's corporate liquidation in
Photo: AdamFirst

Current Name: Sun Life Stadium
Location: Miami, Florida
Major Teams: Dolphins (NFL), Marlins (MLB), Hurricanes (NCAA)
Cost of Naming Rights: N/A
Construction Cost: $115 million

Joe Robbie Stadium, built in 1987, was renamed Pro Player Park, and later Pro Player Stadium after a subsidiary of Fruit of the Loom won naming rights. Although Fruit of the Loom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1999, Pro Player remained the name of the park until 2005, despite the brand's corporate liquidation in 2001.

Wachovia Center

Current Name: Wachovia CenterLocation: Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaMajor Teams: 76ers (NBA), Flyers (NHL)Cost of Naming Rights: $1.9 million/yearConstruction Cost: $210 millionWachovia acquired the stadium's naming rights in 2003 after absorbing First Union Bank.  Then, in the midst of the credit crisis, Wachovia was purchased by Wells Fargo in 2008. The name of the stadium is set to change after the end of the 2010 pro seasons, once integration of the companies is complete.
Photo: Getty Images

Current Name: Wachovia Center
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Major Teams: 76ers (NBA), Flyers (NHL)
Cost of Naming Rights: $1.9 million/year
Construction Cost: $210 million

Wachovia acquired the stadium's naming rights in 2003 after absorbing First Union Bank.  Then, in the midst of the credit crisis, Wachovia was purchased by Wells Fargo in 2008. The name of the stadium is set to change after the end of the 2010 pro seasons, once integration of the companies is complete.