What’s in a name? Money worth hav­ing

The Denver Post - - OPINION -

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.

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