The Washington Times - October 5, 2007, 04:44PM
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Mark Lerner
\ “There’s no panic, but that’s something we certainly may wait on until ‘09,” Lerner said. “These are very complicated deals that take a lot of time to pull together. On a practical level, we’re getting awfully late in the game where we wouldn’t have enough time to order and install the signage in time for Opening Day. We’ll get there. The important thing is to have the right deal instead of the quick deal.”

\ At a media roundtable last month, Nationals President Stan Kasten said the team officials were “hopeful” they could get a deal in place by Opening Day, but stopped short of promising the deal would be done. For most of this year, the team has referred to the new ballpark as “Nationals Park,” and that would likely remain the moniker through 2008 if a naming rights deal can’t be struck. \

\ Most industry experts I’ve spoken to say the Nationals could land a deal worth upwards of $10 million per year for Nationals Park, which would place them second in baseball behind Citibank’s 20-year, $400 million pact for the Mets new stadium. Those same industry experts said waiting a year to finalize a naming rights deal might actually be helpful to the team. A successful year of baseball in the new ballpark could make the team an even more attractive partner, and it would also allow the team to negotiate a deal involving not just signage, but the full integration of a brand into the ballpark. (For instance, a deal with a technology firm might involve providing free wi-fi or computer kiosks in the ballpark, or a deal involving a bank might include a financial services center and ATMs.)\

\ The Nationals may need to be cautious, however, in ensuring that fans don’t get too attached to “Nationals Park.” Kurt Hunzeker, a former editor of Team Marketing Report and contributor to Bizofbaseball.com, recently wrote that so-called “secondary” naming rights deals are generally not as valuable as the naming rights for brand-new stadiums in their first year. He suggests that fans tend to grow attached to the original names of stadiums, often rebelling against new corporate names or simply continuing to refer to the original name even after it’s changed. (For instance, Ameriquest Field in Arlington is still referred to as The Ballpark at Arlington by many fans, while Chase Field in Arizona will always be Bank One Ballpark to many Diamondbacks devotees.) \

\ “The first name will be the first answer when asked, where does ‘insert-team-name-here’ play?,” Hunzeker writes.