The Town Toyota Center has been in the news quite a bit lately. Things have not gone as planned for the Public Facilities District (PFD) or the City of Wenatchee who has guaranteed the bonds to build it. Things are and will continue to go better in the months ahead as some major changes in management are taking place. But that’s another story for later. What I would like to ponder today is the name.
The PFD is a separate government entity, a special district like schools, fire, library and others. It operates under the laws of the state of Washington and has it’s own board of directors. It is NOT a subsidiary of, or a department of the City of Wenatchee. While the City was a lead player, the PFD was formed with the support of all the cities in Chelan and Douglas Counties except Leavenworth. That support was not just, “yeah, its a great idea”, but financially. Each city pledged .033¢ of its sales tax each month to the PFD. In 2008 that was nearly $700,000. and this year will be approximately $550,000. That is not “chump change” as they say. Which is why, when the district was formed, it was named, the Greater Wenatchee Events Center Public Facilities District. The center truly serves the Greater Wenatchee area (Leavenworth included). It isn’t just the “City’s” center.
It used to be that we named things like buildings, parks, bridges, etc. after people who donated or endowed them with substantial amounts of cash, or as a way to honor or memorialize them.
Yankee stadium used to be referred to as, “the house Ruth built”. Babe Ruth put “butts in the seats” to use a promoters term (still in use today). That meant money, and lots of it. But, it was still called Yankee Stadium, right up until the day George Steinbrener tore it down to make way for a more money producing facility, not necessarily a better place to play baseball.
So, while we still have Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and so on, today it is mostly corporate names like Key Arena, Safeco Field, Quest Field, and of course, the Town Toyota Center.
The center originally took on the name, The Greater Wenatchee Events Center; but not for long. In our world of continuous self promotion it has become the norm for public facilities, short of cash as they always are, to sell naming rights. It became the Town Toyota Center for $1 million for 5 years. A million dollars isn’t what it used to be, but in today's economic climate, nobody is going to turn it down either. Naming rights are certainly in keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the American economy. And, I guess that’s ok. But, it does a disservice to all those communities that gave up (in today's retail climate it amounts to a real sacrifice) some revenue to help make the center happen, and to feel a real connection the region as a whole.
In five years, or ten, who knows what it will be called. Most people I talk to just call it the “center”, or the “events center”. I still think it should be called the The Greater Wenatchee Events Center, because that is what it really is.