Naming Rights For Budget Cuts

By Dianne Hoover

Public parks and recreation departments across theU.S.have felt the squeeze of the economic downturn over the past few years. Many agencies have closed facilities and faced massive budget cuts and layoffs–all to the detriment of the citizens they are trying to serve. These agencies have had to find other ways to do business to survive and thrive.

Fighting this downward spiral, the city ofBakersfield,Calif., opened five new parks in 2011–two lighted sports facilities, two neighborhood parks, and one nature-education park–all 10 acres or more. By instituting a combination of naming-rights, partnerships, grants, and park-development fees, the new parks are a welcome addition to the community.

Create A Culture

Naming-rights of public facilities can be controversial for some agencies; however, this city has a successful history of tapping corporations to assist in supporting public venues. In 2004, a family-owned business stepped up to name the newMcMurteyAquaticCenter.

Photos courtesy of the city of Bakersfield Recreation & Parks


In 2005, the city entered into a 10-year agreement with financial-services provider Rabobank to name the city’s convention center and arena for $2.5 million. This created a community culture of corporate naming-rights for public venues.

A Bright Idea

The next opportunity for naming-rights at a park came in 2006 with the opening of The Park at River Walk, containing a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheatre. City Manager Alan Tandy and Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover appealed to members of the chamber of commerce to name the facility. After providing tours to various businesses, the local cable company–Bright House Networks–provided a proposal totaling $500,000 for 5 years. The offer was a combination of cash and advertising–$75,000 in cash to bring in entertainment and $25,000 in advertising annually.

Colleen Dillaway, director of marketing in the cable company, says: “Bright House Networks is proud of the partnership we’ve forged with the city ofBakersfield, both during and after the naming-rights for the Bright House Networks Amphitheatre were secured. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship whereby we have increased visibility in the community, and the residents … can enjoy a world-class facility featuring an incredible variety of entertainment.”

In addition to naming-rights, the cable company installed Wi-Fi throughout the park at no cost to the city. Since that time, the company has installed Wi-Fi at three additional parks, still at no cost to the city. In 2011, Bright House Networks renewed its naming-rights contract for another 5 years, this time for $60,000 cash and $40,000 in advertising.

Photos courtesy of the city of Bakersfield Recreation & Parks

The Triple Payoff

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