Take me out to the Network Associates Coliseum

a Sacramento freelance writer

“Is there a sports facility left that doesn’t have a corporation in its name?” I asked my husband.

We were driving in the Bay Area, and I was startled to see a billboard for Infineon Raceway. Gone is Sears Point Raceway, named for Franklin Sears, the 19th century rancher who headed west with a few coins jingling in his pocket and eventually owned more than 15,000 acres that stretched north from the Bay into Sonoma County.

We thought of a couple of sports complexes that hadn’t been corporatized: Fenway Park in Boston and Shea Stadium in New York. But we trotted out a lot more that had bartered their names for dollars: San Francisco sold out Candlestick Park for Pac Bell Park. Oakland has Network Associates Coliseum. (I tried to say that and bit my tongue.)

The new generation of baseball parks and basketball palaces now have titles as impersonal as the logos on freeway signs or the labels on grocery shelves. Arco Arena in Sacramento. SAFECO Field in Seattle. The great suds triumvirate: Coors Field in Denver, Busch Stadium in St. Louis and Miller Park in Milwaukee.

I brooded about the way corporations stick their noses into every aspect of our lives with advertising, logos, slogans and corporate names. But maybe, rather than fighting the trend, we should look up to the professional sports organizations as our mentors and adopt their approach.

Churches, for example: If the collection plates are light on cash, why don’t they adopt a corporate name in exchange for dollars to pay the minister and repair the pipe organ? The Mondavi Vineyard Ministries, for example. The St. Pauli Girl Catholic Church. The Crystal Spring Water Cathedral.

Or, how about our national parks? Recent reports indicate a shortage of rangers and an abundance of deteriorating buildings, roads and campground restrooms. Corporate sponsorship could turn on a faucet of new money for the Sequoia Paper National Park, Grand Auto Canyon or Washington Mutual Monument.

My brain cells were clicking. The United States is in a recession, and many families face mountains of credit-card debt. Parents could ease their financial burdens by naming their children after corporations that provide financial support. At the same time, scandal-plagued corporations could redeem themselves. Imagine the schoolyard six years from now, filled with active, healthy youngsters who have names like Arthur Andersen Jones, Firestone Garcia and Enron Williams.