Sell Out Already!

The sale of naming rights for stadiums, arenas and other public buildings is not nearly as controversial as it used to be. Perhaps we've all grown accustomed to the weird ring of venues such as Quicken Loans Arena or Merchantsauto.com Stadium. Or maybe, in an advertising- saturated world, we're now pros at tuning out corporate gobbledygook. Either way, our tolerance for sponsorship is growing
by | July 2007

The sale of naming rights for stadiums, arenas and other public buildings is not nearly as controversial as it used to be. Perhaps we've all grown accustomed to the weird ring of venues such as Quicken Loans Arena or Merchantsauto.com Stadium. Or maybe, in an advertising- saturated world, we're now pros at tuning out corporate gobbledygook. Either way, our tolerance for sponsorship is growing.

Just look at what clearly seems to be happening in Boston. There's a naming-rights controversy brewing but not of the "Oh no, not Depends Undergarments Park" variety. Rather, the issue in Beantown is that the city's new conference hall continues to go by the unprofitable name of the Boston Convention & Exhibit Center. According to the Boston Globe, the state convention center authority may be leaving as much as a million bucks on the table. No longer is the story on naming rights about pangs of civic guilt over selling out. Now, the story is: What are you waiting for? Sell out already!

This being Boston, there's also politics involved. Republicans suspect that convention officials are saving the nameplate for Democratic Mayor Tom Menino. Convention officials deny that. So does Menino's office. It'll be interesting to see how this one plays out. Will your next Boston meeting be at the Menino Center? Or Highest Bidder Hall?

CIVICS LESSON

What's a municipality? Some kids these days aren't so sure. In an era when one town's strip malls fade imperceptibly into the next, and when one in six Americans lives in a homeowner-association community, civic awareness among young people is waning.

That's why the Utah League of Cities and Towns drew up a locality- themed curriculum for 4th and 7th graders. Those are the grades in which public-school students in Utah are supposed to learn about government. The league distributed 3,000 copies of the curriculum in hopes that teachers will impart a better sense of the services that municipalities provide, how society pays for them and what citizens' responsibilities are.

This Must Be Utah! suggests a number of activities, worksheets and games. The curriculum hits on such subjects as the history of Utah towns, how cities are planned and government's role in responding to disasters. It may be a stretch to hope that 12-year-olds will grasp the difference between strong-mayor, mayor-council and city-manager governance systems, as one worksheet aims to teach. But it's hard to argue with the effort to connect kids with their communities.

QUICK DEMISE

Only a few years ago, the job of redeveloping Washington, D.C.'s waterfront was thought to be so complex that it required a separately chartered corporation to stay on task. Now, the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. is dead. Its duties, along with those of another development agency, were folded under Mayor Adrian Fenty last month.

It's a rare case of public corporations going away. Usually they have a way of morphing and multiplying--just look at New York, where nobody knows exactly how many public authorities there are. The Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and its counterpart, the National Capital Revitalization Corp., had some successes with writing environmental standards and developing affordable housing. But both were crippled by staff turnover and confusion over whom they were accountable to. When a land-swap between the two agencies got tangled in a two-year turf fight, the city council decided D.C. was better off without either of them.

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