The public is getting fleeced on the naming rights for our baseball stadium — to the estimated tune of $50 to $100 million. So we should resist the corporate choice for what to call it.
The Mariners finally got that sweet lease deal signed by the government this week — the one in which taxpayers were corralled into putting another $135 million into upkeep at the stadium.
But the deal is about to get sweeter. The argument that won the day for the privately-owned Mariners is that the public owns the stadium — because we built it for them — so we ought to be willing to fork over to maintain it.
Fair enough. But now it also happens that the team gets to sell the naming rights for the park formerly known as Safeco Field, and will get to reap an expected $50 million to $100 million from a corporate sponsor.
So it was our stadium when it needed money. But their stadium when it’s getting money.
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It’s been reported that the name could be T-Mobile Field, after the cellular company. But I say we take back the name from our corporate overlords. More on what we the people might call our baseball stadium in a minute.
I was inspired in this name-rebellion effort by a radio station in New York, WNYC. Amazon’s search for an equal second headquarters turned out to be a sham — the company gulled two cities, New York and the Washington, D.C. area, into granting huge tax subsidies in return for offices only about half the size of the Seattle headquarters. So the station said it was officially refusing to call the New York site by Amazon’s chosen “HQ2.”
“You can’t have two headquarters, let alone three. It’s a ‘campus,’ ‘office hub,’ ‘major office complex,’ etc.,” a WNYC editor declared.
The view from Seattle: You New Yorkers should accept what happened and call it a “hindquarters.”
This issue of naming things always gets dicey. Consider the christening of our new professional hockey team. The historical name for pro hockey around here — the Totems — apparently tanked early not because it has no boosters, but because it risked cultural appropriation. “Fans are already upset with the potential Seattle NHL team name,” reported USA Today.
Last week an executive from the team revealed on the Seattle Channel that the mascot has instead been narrowed down to something “water-related.”
To me the clear choice then is “Seattle Sockeyes.” It’s Seattle’s largest urban salmon run, with tens of thousands of fiery red fish, sometimes a hundred thousand or more, fighting up the Locks and through Lake Union, passing less than half a mile from the hockey arena, only to die in spasms of mating glory. Plus when the other team scores, the crowd can hurl a dead fish onto the ice.
The only hang-up is that the plural of sockeye generally isn’t sockeyes. But luckily Seattle has a quaint linguistic tic of adding an extraneous “s” to names — that airplane company some people call Boeings, that market some people call Pikes Place. So even the bug of the name is a colloquial feature.
Last summer only 28,409 sockeye (there’s that plural problem) passed through the Locks, among the lowest totals ever recorded. Sure would be awkward if they go extinct before the first puck drops. A fallback fish position could be to call the team the “Seattle Humpies.” (If you’re not from around here, that’s a fish joke.)
Speaking of awkward, could there be a more soul-deadening name for our baseball stadium than “T-Mobile Field?”
“Un-carrier Park” has also been suggested, after the cellular company’s PR push to brand itself as the opposite of all the other cellular carriers (it’s a deal if we can also get the Un-Mariners).
It’s aggravating that the public owns the building, while the profits for the name flow right past us to the tenant. The public board that oversees the stadium had as one of its main negotiating goals to at least get a share of the naming revenue in this new lease, but that fell by the wayside.
The lease was a “backroom deal,” one board member, Dale Sperling, charged Monday as the lease was finalized.
Oh well. Bring on that “T-Mojo,” I guess, complete with, what, magenta-hued fireworks?
Or, as an act of civic resistance, as well as a nod to the felonious performance of the baseball team that calls the stadium home, just call it “The Cell.”