Madison Square Garden Theater Naming Rights Bought By WaMu

Before you sports fans have a heart attack, it’s not all of Madison Square Garden that’s being renamed—just the theater inside where things like “Sesame Street Live” and the above TV On The Radio concert are performed. Washington Mutual has bought the naming rights to the 5,600 seat theater and will be renaming it “The WaMu Theater,” which brings up a larger question.

Why does this sort of thing irritate us so much? Why do we still refuse to refer to the place where the White Sox play as “U.S. Cellular Field?” Is there something wrong with us? After all, Wrigley Field is named after a guy who sold gum.

What do you think? Are naming rights a good investment? Do you think they influence your purchasing?—MEGHANN MARCO

A: The Theater at the Garden. Q: What Is a WaMu, and Where Is It Found? [NYT]
(Photo: Whistling In The Dark)

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  1. The Count of Monte Fisto says:

    The Wrigley family also owned the Cubs, though, so it’s not just another corporate park.

  2. SwiperNoSwiping says:

    They should have saved the money to hire better CSRs. Calling WaMu is like calling a mourge, then repeatedly pressing “0″ to speak with a dead person.

  3. kerry says:

    I’m just terribly stubborn. I still call Ryan Field at Northwestern “Dyche Stadium,” even though it hasn’t been that for nearly a decade now, and I walk past it every day. Also, I like saying “Dyche.”

  4. dreamrot says:

    The Tigers play at Comerica Park, and as much as I like the Tigers, I’ll still never bank at Comerica again.

  5. racermd says:

    The Wild (an NHL team playing in Minnesota) play at Xcel Energy Center. As far as I’m aware, there is very little choice – if any – in choosing one’s electric service in the Twin Cities. How could that possibly affect my electricity purchasing decision?

    There’s more to it than simply number of eyeballs in front of advertising, methinks.

  6. Lewis says:

    A big part of the problem is the constant changes.

    PacBell Park. No wait SBC Park. No wait AT&T Park.

    The Boston Garden – er, the BankBoston Center. No the Fleet Center. No, the Garden again. Wait, this time I mean it – the TD Banknorth Center.

    The parks need to work 10-year minimums into the naming rights. Merged? OOB? Too bad – the name stands or it reverts to the non-branded name.

  7. quantum-shaman says:

    It annoys the piss right outta me, just like a NYC postal carrier, and I’m not even a sports fan. Yes Wrigley Field was named after a gum salesman, but who chews Wrigley gum anymore? The association has been lost. “Wrigley” is now associated more with a historic baseball park, then it is chewing gum. It rankles people to have to say FedEx Field or U.S. Cellular Field or Bank of America Ballpark, because it is the EPITOME of advertising sluttery! It’s SO in your face, why don’t they just plaster every player with corporate logos like they do in Nascar so that you *reaalllly* get the message. STFU, you filthy marketing attention whores. I hate you. Let people name the ballparks after something evocative of the game. You can put your logo on the napkins. Jeez.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:

    I don’t even like sports and this shit bugs me. Especially “Monster Park,” because I detest the very existence of Monster Cable.

  9. tinychicken says:

    Here in Buffalo we have Dunn Tire Park and HSBC Arena. Most of the old sports fans, myself included, still call them Pilot Field and The Aud, respectively, even though The Aud (Memorial Auditorium) was a completely different building. I don’t think I’ve ever told someone I was going to see the Sabres play at HSBC Arena. Ick! We watch our boys at The Aud. Of course around these parts, they try to change the names of things all the time, including department stores and very rarely does the new name ever take hold.

  10. xboxishuge says:

    It depends on the venue. Most of the time I don’t care, but I hate that the Ravens play in M & T Bank Stadium. The people/city of Baltimore wanted to name it after Johnny Unitas, but instead we got a fucking bank.

    I totally understand the need to make the millions they do by selling the naming rights, but I hate how everything has a damn brand name stuck on it lately.

    Hopefully it doesn’t take with the general population, and people still call it by the old name, or at least roll their eyes every time they use the new one.

  11. timmus says:

    The corporate naming trend really, really pisses me off and was the nail in the coffin for me as far as attending arena concerts (don’t get me started on the impossibility of getting good seats anymore). A concert is psychological and is an escape from the daily grind. I don’t need huge reminders of that daily grind.

    I can proudly say that I have never been in a corporate-named venue, at least since a name adoption. Hopefully I can keep it that way.

  12. Energy Solutions Arena formerly known as the Delta Center in Utah.

    Corporate branding is ugly as fuck on public entertainment centers.

  13. Framling says:

    For those hitting the nytimes log in to read thing, ‘f_cknyt’ for username and password will get you in.

    Thanks, bugmenot.com!

  14. tomok97 says:

    I work in the entertainment venue industry. It seems to me that people are much more willing to accept naming rights if it’s a company that has ties to the town. St. Louis would have been apoplectic if the new Cardinals stadium hadn’t been named Busch Stadium.

    This country now has over 10 major venues named after Verizon Wireless. And, with the way cell phone companies merge, what are the odds that it will still be called Verizon in 10 years? I understand the value of selling naming rights. But it has certainly gotten out of hand. And, it’s become so common place, that I question if it has any real value in most instances. Most consumers I talk to are frustrated by it and continue to refer to venues by outdated names in simple protest. I think there might even be cases where it does more harm than good.

  15. 2Legit2Quit says:

    “Wrigley Field was named after a gum salesman, but who chews Wrigley gum anymore?”

    Are you serious?

    Juicy Fruit, Winterfresh, Eclipse, Orbit, Hubba Bubba, Altoids, Freedent, Life Savers, etc. etc.

    … all Wrigley gum :)

    I still call the Lincoln Financial Feild the Veterns Stadium… despite the fact that the Vet was torn down and the Linc is a completely new complex.

  16. bluemeep says:

    Here in Orlando, our usual venue arena was the “T.D. Waterhouse Center.” In the last few months, the naming rights expired and it was changed to the “Amway Arena.” This resulted in a frightening number of people asking when the heck this new building was constructed and where it was in relation to T.D. Waterhouse.

    Maybe it’s a Florida thing…

  17. rkm12 says:

    Dreamrot: I kind of hope the Comerica could be pulled from the park. The way it’s treating Detroit and the state I don’t want to see it evertime I’m downtown.

  18. chipslave says:

    I wish Fark would have won the naming rights. The UFIA Arena would hav ebeen in full effect! (c:

  19. mikyrok says:

    If any place tries to brand Yankee’s Stadium, Giant’s Stadium, or MSG I will never do business with them again. Yet then again for some reason the Continental arena just seems normal to me..

  20. Buran says:

    @tomok97: I too live in St. Louis and I agree — I accepted the Busch name because it really does have ties to this place, because it’s the name used historically on the last few stadiums we’ve had, and because it really is named after someone who did something important, not a company (though he did found one, of course).

    It’s ridiculous how in-your-face advertising is. Ask the people of a city what they’d like their civic centers to be called AND THEN USE THOSE NAMES. Those people are going to be the ones buying tickets to the events — they should have a say.

    Not some nameless faceless megacorp.

  21. Lars says:

    Remember when the 76ers played at the First Union Center? Aka, the F.U. Center. I just thought was beautifula corporate/local color synergy.

    I actually feel that corporate names on venues have no influence over my spending decisions. I think it’s just a manefestation of corporado egotism.

  22. Steeb2er says:

    “When deep space exploration ramps up, it’ll be the corporations that name everything, the IBM Stellar Sphere, the Microsoft Galaxy, Planet Starbucks.”
        - Edward Norton in Fight Club

  23. matukonyc says:

    As a New Yorker about to lose Shea Stadium (which is to be torn down and its replacement named Citi Field, in honor of Citibank), I just hate this sort of thing. There is no company or product that I like so much that I wish it to be a geographical part of my life, so to speak.

    In my hometown of Providence, they renamed the Providence Civic Center the Dunkin’ Donuts Arena, for crying out loud. It’s ridiculous. Both examples are not only annoying, but between “Citi” and “Dunkin” almost offensively antiliterate.

  24. lawnmowerdeth says:

    A few years ago the Packer leaders were toying with the idea of selling naming rights at Lambeau Field… That lasted a whole 60 seconds or so. There would have been riots and looting in the streets.

  25. Kierst_thara says:

    My biggest gripe is how the naming rights are being sold for venues that already have perfectly good names. If Q. Overblown Banking Co. wants to help fund an entirely new stadium, then sure, they can call it whatever they want. But to slap a corporate name and logo on an existing building that has its own history, and is often already named in honour of a presitigious person or event, just strikes me as disrespectful.

  26. Bourque77 says:

    Yea it’s a good investment. I mean hell BofA paid several million to have the football stadium in charlotte named after them. Of course this was right around the time they were laying off 5,000 people. I dont see why people get so upset about these kinds of things.

  27. Lewis says:

    The day Nassau Coliseium is renamed to Rangers Suck Field, is the day I become an Islander fan.

  28. dickius says:

    Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but it doesn’t bother me a bit. What bothers me is when teams hit up (hold up) the taxpayers for money to build their stadiums. If some of that money can be offset through corporate branding, then why not? It’s not like this is anything new–see Wrigley Field, Times Square and Herald Square in New York, etc. People need to get a life.

  29. Annoyed2 says:

    Boring Cotton Bowl Sponsor:
    AT&T
    Priceless:
    Playtex Products, Inc.

  30. hemaphore says:

    I much prefer “Seattle Center Coliseum” vs. “Key Arena” (after Key Bank…)

  31. quantum-shaman says:

    @dickius: Well that’s a good point but the city will say, you should be thrilled we are holding you up, you little minion of a taxpayer, to build this thing because of all the revenue/jobs/business it will bring in. And it just seems cheesy to me to see a stadium named after a bank. And I hate banks, and I hate the in-your-face advertising mentality even more, so the rant is just a natural for me. Not that I’m actually losing any sleep over it or anything.

  32. This isn’t going to be at all confusing … since there’s already a WaMu Theater in Seattle.

    http://www.wamutheater.com/

  33. nels.anderson says:

    I too detest allowing blatant naming sponsorship of civic buildings, but what’s really gone beyond the pale of excessive advertising is corporate name sponsorship of other corporate buildings. Most of Famous Players’ (Canadian movie theatre chain) fancy new buildings were all recently renamed Scotiabank Theatres.

    Perhaps if you didn’t treat all of your customers like criminals, subjecting them to searches, making them check their cellphones, etc., and tried to make going to the movies worth the money it costs, you wouldn’t have to sell the naming rights of your business to other businesses.

  34. leejames says:

    Buying naming rights worked out pretty well for Enron…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron_Field

  35. John Stracke says:

    @kerry:

    I still call Ryan Field at Northwestern “Dyche Stadium,” even though it hasn’t been that for nearly a decade now

    And I still think of McCormick as Tech. What gets me is the way the alumni newsletter refers to alumni as, say, “McC56″ or (in my case) “WCAS90″, even though they were called Tech and CAS at the time.

  36. riggs says:

    It’s all a bit much, I think. Example: in the 8 years that the Tennessee Titans have played in their current stadium, it’s been known as:

    Adelphia Coliseum
    The Coliseum
    LP Field (which is my favorite, with the Tennessee Titans’ field sponsored by Louisiana Products)

    Why it can’t be “Titans Field” or some such is beyond me.

  37. clarient says:

    I hate it. I don’t particularly like any of the corporations that have the money to throw around to slap their name on some event center.

    In some cases, the name is justified – for example, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. I was devastated when Three Rivers came down, but Heinz Field is entirely appropriate.

    Naming something the “AT&T Center” or “SBC Center” is a joke, because nobody has any real ties to the name. It’s just another bid to get the name advertised bigger and better.

  38. The Unicorn says:

    Funny story about St. Louis/Busch Staduim…back in the day when the first ballpark was being built, August Busch (of Anheuser-Busch fame) wanted to name it Budweiser Staduim, but the civic leaders thought it would be unsavory to have a park named after a brand of beer. No problem, said Augie, I’ll just name it after myself; hence, Busch Stadium.

    And then, of course, a few months later A-B came up with a new brand of beer, conveniently named Busch. :)

    Of course, it seems so quaint now that anyone would object to corporate interests influencing a venue’s name.

    In other StL naming complaints, UMB Bank Pavillion (nee Riverport), anyone? That one particularly annoys me because “UMB” already stands for United Missouri Bank — so it’s redundant AND stupid-sounding.

    Oh, & @MaxPayne…Stride is a Wrigley brand too. They’re everywhere!

  39. rmz says:

    @racermd: I’ve noticed that too. Living in Portland, their stadium is PGE (Portland General Electric) Park. And now, living in Tucson, the baseball stadium here is also called Tucson Electric Park.

    As though people have a choice of what electric company to use most of the time?

  40. Most people here [Denver] call it ‘Mile High’, instead of ‘Invesco Field’.

  41. fearuncertaintydoubt says:

    If the corporate name is unobtrusive, then it is easier to swallow. I never thought about the Delta Center or United Center being named after airlines. But U.S. Cellular Field? I’m not even a White Sox fan (transplant to Chicago from MA, so still a Boston fan), but I find it offensive. And I hold it against news organizations who feel compelled to tow the line for the advertisers. What if the news refused to honor the name and still called it Comiskey Park? The news practically made it sound like a law was passed to change the name.

    The second thing is that if you’re replacing a name that has sentimental appeal with just a corporate name, it feels like something is lost. Imagine Fenway Park or Camden Yards becoming Stop and Shop Park or Burger King Field.

  42. homersays says:

    There are theaters with the same name like The Tweeter Center.

    I live up the block from this place and they have such worthless events there and plenty of them do not sell out anyway. People are going to continue to
    call it what they know it as….’The Theater @ MSG’.

    Jeez, my girlfriend’s family are part owners of Roseland Ballroom, thank god they never changed that name or sold out (they just over sell!)

  43. SadSam says:

    In general I’m not a fan of this naming nonsense. The names change to often to make any sense or to do the company buying the name rights any good. I’m particular against selling naming rights to a corp. entity for an already established tax-payer funded stadium or arena. However, if corp. moneybags wants to build its own arena and name it after the company I’m okay with that. I realllllyy don’t like the corp. naming that is now taking place on college campuses around the country. Icky-poo-poo.

  44. Notsusan says:

    Bottom line is it is an abdication of what little tradition sports has left. At least Wrigley Field was named for a person, not a company. Where they can, names are being replaced by ‘faceless corporate entities.’ But remember, companies can be changed out when the naming agreement expires or the company goes bankrupt- remember Houston’s Enron Stadium??

  45. dragonflight says:

    @quantum-shaman: if you’ve ever had winterfresh, big red, juicy fruit, orbit, or many others you’re chewing Wrigley gum.

    That said, yes, Wrigley was much more than just a corporate sponsor.

  46. matuszek says:

    I consider the stadium names basically a fact of life — unless it’s worth more to them to own the branding on the stadium (as with Fenway), they’ll sell it.

    But I agree with fearuncertaintydoubt — some names are just less obtrusive. I’ve always found that if the name at least sounds like a person’s name — Wrigley, Busch, Ericsson, Dell, Raymond James, Chase — then it doesn’t bother me. Next best is company names made out of real words, like United, Minute Maid, or Citizens Bank. And worst of course are abominations like XCel, PSINet, 3Com, and Invesco.

    So I guess my wish would be that the teams would pick a name that isn’t awful, even if it means settling for a couple million less.

  47. kerry says:

    @John Stracke: I had no idea Tech had been renamed. That explains why grad students who come to my lab look at me like I’m nuts when I ask if their lab is in Tech. Huh.
    @Annoyed2: Genius. I would absolutely support the Playtex Cotton Bowl.
    I think a lot of these companies want the naming rights not so that people attending the games will remember the brand, but so that the announcers on radio and TV will essentially be dropping advertising for the naming corporation every 10 minutes. “Here we are at US Cellular Field/Staples Center/Dunkin Donuts arena/United center for another great **** whatever.” The people watching/listening get the brands embedded in their psyches, and will recall the brand names later. It’s insidious and annoying.

  48. quantum-shaman says:

    @dragonflight: Shows ya what I know about gum… I don’t chew it. Wrigley to me is only a green package with the black arrow. Or a baseball field.

  49. tinychicken says:

    @Annoyed2: As a woman younger than a “woman of a certain age” I find Playtex as a sponsor of the Cotton Bowl to be utterly fastastically hilarious!

  50. benko29 says:

    Seems to be the same story everywhere. Really a shame that sports venues have been whored out even up to their names for branding purposes. Here in Toronto it’s no different. Formerly SkyDome, now Rogers Centre. But it will always be SkyDome in my heart.
    But hey, Rogers Centre is still better than Monster Park or WaMu Theater. “WaMu” just sounds fucking rediculous.

  51. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @dreamrot: Comerica whatnow? The Tigers play in Tigers Stadium.

    /stubborn

  52. lucidpsyche says:

    Oh, the Staples Center… though I don’t know if it had another name before that. Dodger and Angel stadiums are named just that, I think, though I know the Dodgers have a sponser for everything from the radar gun measuring the speed of the pitch to the home runs.

    I think the Arrowhead Pond has a corporate name, but I don’t know what it is…

  53. zl9600 says:

    Coors Field in Denver has never been anything else. And maybe that’s why nobody cares. Pepsi Center used to be something else but I don’t remember (this is where the Colo. Avalanche play and Denver Nuggets lose).

    Maybe I’m the only one here who laughs at it, because it’s silly, but I also understand that this is how these structures get built with LESS taxpayer money when corporations come in and throw money at it. Fact o’ life, kids.

    Doesn’t mean you have to like it, but saying you’ll never shop at x or bank at y because it’s the name of your local ballpark, is not only hollow but damn ungrateful.

    Just kiddin, sorta.

  54. quantum-shaman says:

    Bottom Line: Oversubsidizing pro sports is much worse than overcommercializing them.

    I still reserve a cold, black corner in my heart for all you marketing numbnuts, and your crappy bank too.

  55. Artnchicken says:

    In Cleveland, we have Quicken Loans Arena (formerly Gund Arena, which not only was named after the former owner of the Cavs, but sounded like a STD). However, it has an official nickname of “The Q.” That I don’t mind since it’s easier to say and isn’t word-of-mouth advertising.

  56. kmccoy says:

    @homersays: You’re right that people will keep calling it what they want. I’ve actually worked in the Theatre at MSG as part of the stagehand crew for Sesame Street Live (thanks for the mention, Meghann! :P) three years in a row now. When I mention that to people, I get responses variously like “the what at MSG?”, or “oh, you mean the Felt Forum”, or “oh, you mean the Paramount”, some of its other previous names.

  57. Klitaka says:

    Over here in the North-west (Seattle), there’s also “Safeco Field,” and it’s been called such since it was built. I suppose people also refer to it as the Mariners’ stadium, too, but it’s Safeco Field.

    Funny how I still think of it as new, when it opened eight years ago.