- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The average American taxpayer in major sports towns gets duped all the time into paying for stadiums and arenas that their regional leaders promise will boost revenue and bring jobs to town. (The nation’s capital is still waiting for its economic booster to pay off.) The average American fan in major sports towns get duped, too - after paying for the stadium they then face rising costs for tickets and parking.

As the financial crises seemingly spin unabated, Americans and small businesses are juggling and reprioritizing their budgets, but that’s not the case for such behemoths as Comerica, Citibank, and AIG. These and other financial giants ink naming-rights deals with stadiums and arenas with one hand, and then with another receive bailouts in the billions from the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

To give Americans a general idea of how pre-bailout money was spent by these firms, we offer the following - courtesy of ABC News:

It and the New York Mets have signed a $400 million promotion deal for the team’s new stadium, which is called Citi Field. This despite the fact that the company laid off 53,000 workers and this week, as American taxpayers learned, will be granted a bailout.

The insurer barely has financial legs to stand on, but it is paying $125 million to Manchester United to have its logo appear on the British soccer team’s uniforms.

The bank, which has been pledged to receive $7.7 billion in TARP funds, has a $30 million agreement to keep the Pittsburgh Pirates’ stadium named PNC Park.

Its TARP take is $25 billion. This, while following through on a $66 million contract to call the Arizona Diamondbacks’ stadium Chase Field.

Ah, Detroit. Its Big Three automakers plan to return to Washington and repeat their “let’s make a deal” offer. In the meantime, Comerica has been pledged to receive $2.3 billion in TARP funds while paying for naming rights to the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park.

Taxpayers do not know what’s in Capital One’s wallet - other than $2.3 billion from TARP. But most college football fans are aware of the fact that the Citrus Bowl is now the Capital One Bowl. Such name changes do not comely cheaply.

Sports naming rights and sponsorships are big business. NASCAR fans grow up rooting for their favorite drivers and their drivers’ sponsors. They know Ford teams from Chevy teams, and they know Lowes’ competitors from Home Depot’s. Fans also know the Detroit automakers have threatened NASCAR’s stable because of their own mismanagement.

Who wants to imagine NASCAR without Detroit-made autos?

The financial institutions and the sports teams are being disingenuous when they pull money from the public trough and keep all the profits for them. All involved parties should do the right thing during these hard-economic times: Renegotiate the naming-rights contracts.

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