You bought the stadiums, and now you subsidized the naming rights

AIG and Citi will get billions in taxpayer money in order to keep from failing, but they’ll still pay millions of dollars to keep their names on sports stadiums.  Brian Ross reports that taxpayer subsidies for professional sports have reached new highs:

AIG, Citibank and a number of other federally bailed-out financial institutions have no plans to cancel hundreds of millions of dollars in sports team sponsorships, even as they take billions in taxpayer support, ABC News has found.

In boom times, the sponsorships were seen as a way to advertise the firms’ “brands” and appeal to potential customers. Even today, at least one bank told ABC News that a naming deal was increasing its revenue. But critics, including a member of Congress, say the decision to continue them now is hard to defend.

Struggling Citibank just sealed a multi-billion-dollar emergency “backstop” deal with the U.S. government. The financial behemoth, suffering with billions in bad mortgage-related assets on its books, recently shed 53,000 workers and saw its stock price lose over half its value. Yet it’s in a 20-year contract to pay the New York Mets $400 million to name the team’s new stadium “Citi Field.”

King Banaian has a more comprehensive list of banks with naming rights:

  • Ameriquest Capital (Texas Rangers, $2.5 million a year through 2034)
  • Bank of America (Carolina Panthers, NFL, $7 million a year through 2024)
  • Bank One Ballpark (Arizona Diamondbancks, MLB, $2.2 million through 2028)
  • Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies, MLB, $2.3 million, 2028)
  • Comerica (Detroit Tigers, MLB, $2.2 million, 2030)
  • Conseco Fieldhouse (Indiana Pacers, NBA, $2 million, 2019)
  • Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis Rams, NFL, $2.65 million, 2013)
  • Wachovia Center (Phila. Flyers/Sixers, NHL/NBA, $1.4 million, 2023)
  • Fleetcenter (Boston Celtics/Bruins NBA/NHL, $2 million, 2010)
  • Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds, $2.5 million, 2033)
  • HSBC Arena (Buffalo Sabres, NHL, $800k, 2026)
  • Invesco Field (Denver Broncos, NFL, $6 million, 2021)
  • KeyArena (now vacant in Seattle, $1 million, 2010)
  • Lincoln Financial Field (Phila. Eagles, NFL, $6.7 million, 2022)
  • M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore Ravens, NFL, $5 million, 2018)
  • Mellon Arena (Pitssburgh Penguins, NHL, $1.8 million, 2009)
  • Nationwide Arena (Columbus BlueJackets, NHL, unknown)
  • PNC Park (Pitts. Pirates, $2 million, 2020)
  • Raymond James Stadium (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL, $3.1 million, 2026)
  • RBC Center (Carolina Hurricanes, NHL, $4 million, 2022)
  • TD Waterhouse Centre (Orlando Magic, NBA, $1.6 million, 2003)

Taxpayers will wind up getting the shaft twice in most of these cases, if not all of them.  Most stadiums get built with substantial public subsidies, despite record salaries and revenues for the teams and athletes involved.  Unlike the bailout, the taxpayers get no equity stake in the teams — usually only receiving a vague promise from the teams not to leave town for a few years, or at least until they get the taste for more public financing for upgrades to the facilities.

When these got built, the naming rights were a mechanism to offset some public financing through commercial sponsorship.  Now with taxpayers rescuing banks left and right, we’re now picking up the tab for expensive sponsorships.  Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense says they should replace the bank names with “US Treasury,” and then adds in a more serious vein:

“Up until now they were businesses who could invest or waste their money as they see fit,” said Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Ellis. “But now we’re the shareholders. And frittering their money away with naming rights and ties to sports teams isn’t a really good investment of taxpayers’ money — particularly when credit markets are collapsed.”

Any organization that plans on spending millions of dollars on sponsorships of stadiums should not get taxpayer money for rescues.  Once again, we see that the taxpayer-funded bailouts subsidize poor management decisions, and in this case amounts to subsidizing subsidies.

Update: Flip has a much better design for the new Mets stadium.