What’s in a name? Money worth having
The question of selling naming rights to public facilities is again in the mix as officials seek to bolster funding for massive expansions of the Colorado Convention Center and the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
As The Denver Post’s John Wenzel reported, dual efforts are afoot that could give the convention center a corporate moniker and similarly allow the nonprofit theater company that rents space in the facility — the good folks at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, or DCPA — sell naming rights for some facilities within the arts complex. Both efforts are in the early stages and several questions are yet to be worked out.
If done responsibly, so that names are in keeping with the city’s image, we think it’s a fine idea. With the potential to raise tens of millions of dollars before them, civic leaders would be making a mistake to stick with the status quo, and the facilities’ image and reputation won’t be too terribly tarnished.
(Disclaimer: Denver Post chairman William Dean Singleton is the DCPA board’s secretary/treasurer. He has recused himself from weighing in on this editorial.)
Longtime Post readers might remember we’ve taken a dim view of such transactions in some situations, and for good reason. When residents come to know a venue over the years, especially when such a place comes with a name loved enough to become a symbol of the community, it becomes rather like the Velveteen Rabbit: real.
Which is why, when the Denver Broncos moved from the decadesold Mile High Stadium to their current location in 2001, we were among the fiercest critics of the corporate name that came with the change. We joined fans and the taxpayers who supported the new construction when they grew an- gry that the Broncos sold the naming rights to Invesco. The Denver Post refused to print the new name, and stuck to that policy throughout the Broncos’ first season in their new digs.
An editorial we published at the time was headlined “Ripoff at Mile High.”
More recently, we’ve sort of come around. Last spring, as bankruptcy proceedings at Sports Authority put the question of naming rights back in play at Mile High, we raised the white flag, noting that the millions to be lost would be bad for the venue, and for fans.
Selling such rights has become more accepted over the years, and the extra money brought in from the transactions provides taxpayers some relief — or should.
Now, should Denver ever get the bright idea to sell the naming rights for some of our storied historic places — like Red Rocks Amphitheatre or the Denver Art Museum — we would immediately join the resistance.
The Colorado Convention Center isn’t such a place. Yes, the complex is a great addition to Denver’s entertainment and business economies, but most residents wouldn’t mind — or much notice — if its name suddenly became the Insert-Corporate-NameHere Colorado Convention Center. The center already sells rights for one of venues: the Bellco Theatre. A corporate brand won’t overly detract, and a naming rights contract could help fill the enormous funding gap facing its expansion plans.
At the performing arts complex, we would hope branding of venues could be accomplished by awarding top benefactors, which would be completely in keeping with practices employed for generations at many cultural facilities around the country.
As long the Big Blue Bear isn’t made to blush, officials should move forward with their plans.