Doug Wolter: Pittsburgh runs out of ketchup
Should a sports stadium be named, then re-named? Yes, if the money's right
Football fans in Pittsburgh are going to have a hard time getting used to calling their newly-renamed stadium “Acrisure Field.”
Granted, since 2001 they have been calling the home of their beloved Steelers “Heinz Field.” Named after a ketchup.
But old habits die hard. Last week the NFL team announced that a business called Acrisure will grace the structure’s face, a reality which will continue at least until 2035 when the naming contract runs out. Fans of the NFL franchise are miffed.
I can’t say I’m bothered by it, of course, because I’m not a Steelers fan. But I am amused.
Most of us have never heard of Acrisure, which apparently is an insurance brokerage company. Well, OK. Sounds like a brand of deodorant to me.
Name changes of sports teams. Name changes of sports stadiums. It’s all part of a larger game these days, where things we once accepted as fixed -- from founding fathers’ names on school buildings to food brands -- are undergoing erasure.
Heinz Field wasn’t a problem in the sense that it was deemed racist, or anything like that. Not that it couldn’t be racist, of course. These days, pretty much everything is, anyway, if you’re into that.
No, Heinz Field was renamed for money. Heinz purchased naming rights to the Steelers’ home for $57 million 20 years ago, but the ketchup behemoth couldn’t out-bid Acrisure in 2022.
Personally, I tend to like it better when the original names of stadiums (and sports teams, too, for that matter) remained as is. It used to be that when you built a sports stadium, it kept the name until you built a new one 70 or 100 years later.
Why? It’s kind of like babies, I think. If you pick out a name for your first-born son and call him Jayson, would you want to rename him Frank on his 15th birthday?
I think not.
Consider Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, which was built in 1912 and has been called Fenway Park ever since. There’s nothing magical about being named after the neighborhood it was fashioned in, which Fenway is, but Fenway is certainly considered a magical place today. Tell a Sox fan that you’d like to change the name and he’ll respond with a string of invectives only a northeasterner can understand.
Would you change the name of Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, which actually opened in 1914 under another name but has been Wrigley Field ever since 1927? Perhaps the Cubs, should they need a quick infusion of cash, will sell naming rights to the highest bidder like the Steelers did, but I hope (and I suspect millions of Cubs fans agree with me) they don’t.
This reminds me of the Minneapolis home of the Minnesota Twins, Target Field, which replaced the Metrodome in 2010. I wished at the time that it could simply be called “Twins Stadium” or something simple like that, but of course the franchise decided instead to sell the naming rights.
Target Field isn’t a particularly lousy name. There are worse things than being named after a retail store chain. But I hear that Target’s 25-year naming rights are up for grabs again in 2035. When that happens, who knows what will come next.