Superdome name goes unsold
graphic January 31, 2002: 11:24 a.m. ET

Superdome comes up empty in bid for corporate name in time for big game.
By Staff Writer Chris Isidore
graphic graphic
graphic       graphic
  • SportsBiz: Enron woes written on wall? - Nov. 30, 2001
  • SportsBiz: Cash the name of the game - Aug. 24, 2001
    NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - This may be the last Super Bowl played in a stadium that doesn't mention a corporation as part of its name.

    It's not for lack of trying that it happened that way, though.

    Last August the state of Louisiana signed an agreement to sell the naming rights to the Superdome as a way to raise money to help keep the New Orleans Saints football team from leaving town.

    But Envision LLC, the Los Angeles firm that got the contract to sell the name, was not able to close the deal before the game because of the weakening advertising market and the disruptions caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

    "We thought we had progress with a couple of companies," said Jeff Knapple, president of Envision. "Unfortunately, we couldn't make the deadline. We'll have to circle the wagons a little bit and let game come and go."

    The Superdome remains free of a corporate name, but it's not from lack of trying.
    For several weeks after the attack it wasn't even clear that the Super Bowl would still be played in New Orleans due to the disruption caused to the NFL schedule by the attack. Knapple said companies were also reluctant to commit to multi-million dollar, multi-year sponsorship deals until they had a chance to assess the new market.

    "We frankly lost September and October," he said. "Also it would have been a fairly tight window to get it done in time. The quickest we've done a deal is 6 months. The longest is 18 months. They tend to be closer to a year."

    Not being able to sell the name in time for this year's game will probably cost Louisiana some money, though Knapple said that it is difficult to estimate exactly how much.

    "The companies we were speaking to at the end didn't care that much about this particular Super Bowl," he said. "There's an anticipation we could get the game back in the life of the sponsorship agreement. But I'm not going to delude myself to think there will be no impact. The Super Bowl served a unique role as the marquee sporting event."

    The stadium is scheduled to be the home of the 2003 Final Four for the NCAA's men's basketball tournament, as well as the 2004 national college football championship game.

    Knapple said that he has been able to negotiate another naming rights deal recently that will be announced in March that will be more lucrative than previous deals for similar facilities. But he said the overall market for stadium signage deals is down about 10 to 15 percent from a year ago, due to the weaker advertising market overall.

    While Knapple won't give an estimated price for the naming rights, Arnold Fielkow, the Saints' director of administration, said the asking price had been about $4.5 million to $5 million a year. That money would have gone to pay some of the $186 million the team expects to get over 10 years under an agreement signed with the state last year.

    The rest of the money is expected to come from tax revenues, such as a hotel-motel tax in the New Orleans area, as well as a tax on visiting players' salaries and the sale of up to 10 luxury boxes to the state. If the naming rights bring in less than expected, then the state will have to look to increase the amount raised from the other sources or seek new sources altogether.

    The approval of the $186 million incentive package, as well as inducements to woo the NBA Hornets to move to the city from Charlotte, N.C., will be considered by a special session of the Louisiana legislature set for March.

    Corporate names on stadiums and arenas, never overly popular with many fans, took another black eye last fall with the bankruptcy of Enron Corp., which was just completing its second season with its name on the Houston Astros' new stadium.

    "I imagine there could be an influence from the Enron fallout," Knapple said. "But I've never had anyone suggest that would be an issue." graphic


    SportsBiz: Enron woes written on wall? - Nov. 30, 2001

    SportsBiz: Cash the name of the game - Aug. 24, 2001