Naming Rights: Point/CounterpointBy
Renaming the Asheville Civic Center has stirred up a controversy that grew stronger after People Advocating Real Conservancy sent an email around a couple of days ago. Since at least 2001, Asheville’s City Council has encouraged our Economic Development and Civic Center leadership to seek out entities willing to purchase naming rights to the aging Civic Center. Recently, Civic Center Director and Economic Development Director Sam Powers was approached by US Cellular. The corporation has named stadia in many cities.
After the jump, I’ve tried to encapsulate the arguments for and against in order to facilitate public conversation. I’m sure I left some salient points out, so please add yours in the comments. At this juncture, my position is that (1) I’m committed to Civic Center renovations for the benefit of our community; (2) I would like to ensure that all bidders have an opportunity to respond to the offer on the table; and (3) Without additional revenue options, naming rights are the best available route to achieving the improvements so desperately needed at our Civic Center.
Fellow Hooligan Paul Van Heden has very strong sentiments against the sale that he shared with me, and I reckon he’ll have his own post on the subject before long.
– For years the community has decried the state of the Civic Center.
– The facility has been substandard in various ways. If you’ve attended a concert there, you know about the sound system/acoustics. We lost our sports teams because of the problems. We are missing opportunities to expand vending.
– As evidenced by the recent spike of interest in our fair city, the Civic Center will be increasingly in demand by musicians, artists, sports teams, and more.
– In the last couple of years a commitment was made to a multi-million dollar renovation of the existing center. Buncombe County pledged money to the effort, City of Asheville is investing, and the Tourism Product Development Fund of the Tourism Development Authority is a partner as well.
– Naming Rights monies would go toward “a new state-of-the-art sound system, redesign of the concession area to accommodate a food court that offers more choices for attendees, plus new TV monitors, better lighting and acoustics on the concourse level.”
– The process of seeking/receiving offers was delegated to Mr. Powers, who has been an excellent manager of the Civic Center as well as an excellent leader in our Economic Development efforts.
– CEO and owner Bob Ingle was approached by Jan Davis and Sam Powers on separate occasions regarding sponsorship and naming rights. Mr. Ingle rejected the opportunity.
– Ingles has been approached many, many times over the years and has not opted to involved itself in partnerships with the city or other downtown institutions like the Arts Museum or Performing Arts Center.
– The City has been open to any interested party.
– The arrangement is temporary (5-8 years).
– Last year the arena was renamed the “exploreasheville.com” arena using the same process. The process was noncontroversial.
– Asheville has unique restrictions on its abilities to raise revenue for projects such as this one.
– No one has made an argument that we ought to raise citizens’ taxes to fund the renovation.
– Our state representatives have repeatedly barred us from raising our occupancy tax to the state average. Currently Buncombe County’s 4% occupancy tax is split between the Tourism Development Authority and the Tourism Product Development Fund, with no money going directly to elected government. Were Asheville to have a 6% occupancy tax rate, that extra 2% could be used to fund infrastructure needs.
– With the public will behind action on the Civic Center but not behind additional taxes, public-private partnerships are the only available route remaining.
– We’re all going to call the thing the Asheville Civic Center anyway. Our identities need not be injured by a renaming.
– Asheville is a unique city renowned for independent businesses, art, architecture, music, and open-mindedness.
– The Civic Center is a valuable public asset paid for by the people of Buncombe County.
– Public infrastructure rights should not be sold to private entities. The corporatization of our public spaces injures civic life and risks our city’s reputation.
– If we are to sell naming rights, then we must recognize the naming of the Civic Center is a valuable commodity, and we must get top dollar.
– Such processes should occur only after open, formal community input is encouraged by municipal government.
– Such processes should occur only after an open, formal bidding process like we use in offering contracts for services.
– Recent investments by TDA, City of Asheville, and Buncombe County get us a long way towards renovating the Civic Center.
– There must be other creative approaches to continuing those renovations.
– With the unfortunate passing of Mr. Ingle, a new opportunity for dialogue could be opened with his company.
– The people of Asheville don’t want to feel that their city has “sold out”, and having this corporate logo on this important building will detract from citizens’ quality of life.