January 30th, 2008

Park Naming Rights Talks Go On

By Robert Daski
Journal Messenger (Manassas, VA)

Negotiations continue between Front Row Marketing Services and various companies to secure a naming rights contract that would help pay for a new Potomac Nationals stadium.

Companies sometimes pay to have their names on sports complexes. For instance, FedEx paid for naming rights for the Washington Redskins’ stadium and Verizon pays to have its name on the downtown arena where the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals play.

Representatives for Front Row, a Philadelphia-based firm, are keeping Potomac Nationals owner Art Silber informed on who they are interviewing and which other companies may be interested in buying naming rights.

“We are very encouraged right now and very impressed by the names of potential naming rights partners that have requested information that they’re meeting with,” said Silber, who declined to say which companies are on Front Row’s list of potential buyers.

The Nationals hired Front Row on Jan. 18 to handle naming rights negotiations, according to a Nationals press release. A phone message left for Front Row project manager Joe Worley on Tuesday went unreturned.

Silber said that a deal for the naming rights must be struck by April if the Nationals are to play in a new stadium - likely located near the Nationals’ current home, G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium - in 2009. He wants the deal to be for 10 years and $12 million, meaning the company that buys the naming rights must play $1.2 million annually over 10 years.

Silber wants the naming rights buyer to be a financially stable company that can spread a positive image to Potomac’s fans.

“We want a company that can present a positive image for all the people that would be coming to our games,” Silber said. “We want it to be a company we believe is financially strong, so they can continue to pay the entire payment of the contract.”

Once a naming rights deal is complete, county officials and Potomac’s representatives could discuss the possibility of building a baseball stadium for next year.

County communications director Liz Bahrns said a new stadium is not in the county’s fiscal or comprehensive plan in the next five years.

But Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, R-at large, said that a naming rights deal could lessen the stadium’s cost to the county, which had a financial shortfall of $18.1 million in fiscal 2007. The county faces continued budget shortfalls for 2008 and 2009.

“The stadium can become much more affordable because of the naming rights,” Stewart said.

In 2007 the estimated cost of the stadium was roughly $22 million.

Before the 2007 budget shortfall became apparent, there was talk of the county issuing a $22 million bond to pay for the stadium, with Silber and the county splitting the cost of repaying the bond.

For the Nationals to play in a new stadium during 2009, construction must begin no later than July to have it ready for the final month of next season.

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