Avoid those ‘Enron’ tattoos when naming sports arenas

Let’s consider going back to using these facilities to honour people and communities

As a hockey fan, I’ve known about Rod Brind’Amour for years. These days, he’s behind the bench and got the Carolina Hurricanes playing some solid hockey. His professional bona fides are unquestionable.

But I’m not really writing about Rod but, rather, the fact he has an arena named after him. I know the city and regional district want to refurbish the old barn. In doing so, I hope they never succumb to the lure of selling the naming rights, or what seems increasingly more like leasing rights, as many arenas and stadiums are changing their names.

Case in point: The metamorphosis of Vancouver’s GM Place into Rogers Arena. When it opened, I recall many people scratching their heads over what General Motors ever had to do with the city. Little did we know it wasn’t even going to be permanent moniker. We were so, so naive.

I guess it’s getting harder to turn down money from corporations. I realize companies – yes, including newspapers – want to get their brand out there, and they’re willing to pay. After all, it’s not my choice to make. But maybe it should be our choice.

Once upon time, old stadiums like Wrigley Field in Chicago or Busch Stadium in St. Louis acknowledged a company that formed an important part of the fabric of that community. I take no issue with this.

It’s the arbitrary nature these days that irks me, including name changes. In effect, it’s “Welcome to Highest Bidder Arena, home of ‘your’ [INSERT THE TEAM NAME HERE].”

I saw in an online Market Watch article that many facilities change names because of mergers and acquisitions in the corporate world.

This helps explain some of the confusion, but often the naming deals already come with an end date.

Then there was the embarrassing case of Enron Field, which prompted the Houston Astros to change the stadium name, eventually to Minute Maid Park, after it became clear how corrupt the homegrown energy giant really was. Even then, the team had to fork over $2.1 million to bankrupt Enron to shed itself of that bad tattoo.

I’m old enough to remember when many arenas and stadiums bore names like Veterans Stadium or Memorial Auditorium – names that acknowledged a debt of gratitude to veterans or other publicly minded citizens.

Yet now, stadiums are increasingly paid for with public money and, at the same time, less likely to be called anything that celebrates that community or its veterans or other prominent people.

Without getting into the whole Colin Kaepernick controversy, I find it more than a little hypocritical that NFL owners want any players taking a knee to do so in the locker room, apparently as the players’ protests (which have nothing to do with veterans) are deemed disrespectful. Really? Maybe if these same owners opted to honour veterans by naming their publicly funded facilities for some higher purpose other than taking cash from a soft drink manufacturer or payday loan company or investment bank, I could take them more seriously.

However, this is the NFL were talking about, though the other pro leagues aren’t much better.

Hopefully, we are better. Should the temptation ever arise to pawn off the local arena’s rights once it’s refurbished, I hope we think twice before getting some “Enron” tattoo we might come to regret.

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