With the expiration of the first naming rights contract for our downtown arena, we say goodbye to the name “John Labatt centre” and hello to “Budwieser Gardens”. The name change has brought some sounds of displeasure and unhappiness from some of the city’s residents, and I understand their dislike of the new name.It isn’t a great name, and certainly has no historical or cultural connection to our city. The local Labatt brewery (which is owned by Belgian-based mutli-national brewing conglomeration Interbrew) does brew a lot of Budwieser (a brand originally brewed in the U.S. and still strongly identified as an American beer) but that’s hardly a great wellspring of civic pride and identity.
You might argue that the citizens have a right to decide on the name of the arena: the city did invest a considerable amount of taxpayer money, directly and through reduced costs to the builder, towards the building. The argument is valid, as long as you keep in mind that the naming rights are worth a lot of money. To keep the right to name the facility would cost the community upwards of a million dollars a year (a very rough estimate). With a tight budget and an aversion to raising taxes, that million dollars is sorely needed revenue.
But consider this: what if the citizens had a way to buy the naming rights themselves? The online funding platforms like Kickstarter and indiegogo making it possible for anyone to organize and start raising money for a project. The idea itself is an old one-communities used to fund almost every capital project through the issuance of municipal bonds.In this case, you set the goal amount and a deadline, and start asking for cash. If you hit the goal, then the naming rights are yours. If not, then the community has spoken.
This might be an idea to consider for the various capital projects that are being talked about around the city, like the construction of a new performing arts center. A kickstarter project that raised 25% of the total cost would speak more loudly about the community’s desire to have the facility built than any one meeting or rally could.