Sports teams that don’t sell their stadium’s name send a message that is growing louder, writes Josh Boyd in The Wall Street Journal (8/19/13). That message, says Josh, is this: "We are big enough, good enough, and rich enough that we don’t need no stinkin’ naming-rights deal." The Dallas Cowboys are the latest to give up on that message, having sold its stadium rights last month to AT&T "for an estimated $19 million." They join most of the other 31 NFL stadiums, of which 25 have sponsored names. In baseball, it’s 19 out of 30 and in basketball it’s 26 of 30.
Of course, some stadiums "fall into the gray area between commercial and commemoration: Wrigley Field in Chicago, Turner Field in Atlanta and Busch Stadium in St. Louis were all originally named for team owners," albeit those with close corporate ties. Anheuser-Busch actually had to pay to keep its name on its stadium "after the Cardinals’ ownership changed." Interestingly, A-B originally wanted to name the stadium after Budweiser back in 1953, but the baseball commissioner at the time wouldn’t permit it. The company attempted a workaround by later introducing a Busch brand of beer.
Sometimes mergers and acquisitions wreak havoc with stadium names: The Philadelphia 76ers’ arena changed rapidly from CoreStates to First Union to Wachovia to Wells Fargo. Meanwhile, playing in Minute Maid Park or Tropicana Field might seem ironic for drug-abusing players embroiled in baseball’s "juicing" scandal (then again, Minute Maid Park previously was named Enron Field). The stalwart few tend to be teams "with championship traditions or long histories" (e.g., Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers). The bottom line, suggests Josh, is that "little says ‘our team is important’ better than a name that hasn’t been sold."