Naming Rights: Point/Counterpoint


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 “” 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.


  1. Dixiegirlz says:

    I like all the “counterpoints.” I think Asheville’s uniqueness means a naming partner should be unique also…not just another big corporation. Not sure what Company would pass my persnickity thinking…maybe “Apple???”

    If we want to continue marketing ourselves as a unique City, we need to be very careful in what is allowed to become a prominently displayed ‘name.”

    That said, how much have consultants been paid to “fix” that building?

  2. TJ says:

    “maybe “Apple???”

    D.: someone might get the bright idea of calling it the “Big Apple Center”

    :::ugh:::: as fond as I am of Apple (as I type on my iPhone, listening to my iPod, wishing for an iPad for Christmas, too broke to buy an Airbook ;-). ), please no.

    I guess it’s something else Occupy Asheville could get into.

    Corporate in small-town America?

    Can’t picture it on a postcard.

  3. Briggs Sherwood says:

    Sponsorships result from marketing/fundraising operations.. not bidding contracts.. is this another question for Scalia and Thomas?

  4. Arthur Bernier says:

    Both point & counterpoint are good arguments. The civic center definitely needs some serious improvement, but the “US Cellular Center” sounds a little too corporate for Asheville. I have seen many of my favorite venues around the country lose some of their aesthetic appeal to corporate name changes. There is a “Verizon Ampitheater” in just about every state, and when searching for a local/regional venue via the internet, these nationwide corporate venue names clog search engines like google, etc. Perhaps allowing Asheville/Buncombe residents to have some level of input would be a good idea, but if a corporation insists on a name of their choice, they should definitely be paying top dollar for that privilege. It would be nice to keep “Asheville” in the new title somehow. “Asheville US Cellular Center” sounds a lot better than just the “US Cellular Center” in my opinion.

    While riding the LaZoom tour bus recently, they pointed out all the awesome show biz history (Bob Hope, Elvis, etc.) of the building, which they then mentioned was constructed of “Stone and mold.” I thought that was pretty funny and pretty accurate.

    Thanks for creating a space for some level of public comment on this Gordon.

  5. I’d like to see current ordinances concerning signage enforced should this come to pass…
    I’d also like to know why no one as far as I know has tried conventional fundraising efforts of the sort that have been very successful other places. “Buy a Brick” type stuff. There are lots of examples out there, and lots of options for public action rather than the easy-out of corporate sponsorship.
    You could potentially get more money from private donations and second tier naming, I.E. “the Ascend of Asheville Men’s Lounge” than you will from that very poorly negotiated deal worked out by Mr. Powers, whose expertise in this matter I frankly question.
    If you have been looking for funding options since 2001, I suggest that what you have is a problem with personnel, not a lack of choices.
    How much active brainstorming has even gone into this issue?
    I have your expert, Gordon. Email me and I’ll set you up. Don’t let this be done this way. You have options.

  6. Agnes Cheek says:

    Hmm…my memory might serve me wrong, but I seem to recall being called “Fearful and angry” because I brought up the fact that the upgrades alone for the SOCon to come to the Civic Center would cost around $6.1M that was to be put on the backs of the taxpayers by Asheville City Council. So now that someone actually wants to come in and help pay for that building that has been nothing but a money pit for over 20 years, there is controversy?
    Don’t you realize by now that many of counterpoints you listed are as a result of the PEOPLE who live, work, and do business in Asheville and Buncombe county and not because of the name on a building? Also, you do realize that Asheville extends well beyond the tunnel vision of downtown, by now right? Maybe Asheville should hire some more consultants, have create more committees. How’s that working out?

  7. stereoman says:

    It’s not exactly clear from the opening graf, and certainly far less than clear from the points/counterpoints, what the argument is. But I’m going to guess that it’s whether or not to sell the naming rights to U.S. Cellular. If that is indeed the case, then the majority of the points – and counterpoints – do not directly address the argument. In fact, most of the points and counterpoints are totally compatible. Points 1-5 simply address the need for funds, from any source. Counterpoints 1,2 4,5 and 6 in no way deny the opportunity of renaming the Center to U.S. Cellular. But counterpoints 4-6 do point out what is terribly wrong with the way the process has been carried out to date, and Counterpoint 5 correctly addresses Points 12-15, without contradiction. Mayor Bellamy deserves a spanking for announcing a fait accompli from a smoke filled backroom deal. Lame duck though it may be, I expect Council to vote this down.

  8. Dixiegirlz says:

    Actually TJ, it was just a facetious comment…certainly I have no power to establish the name. I think most here understand that….hopefully.

    I do agree if the Asheville name gets replaced should go for top dollar. What have other’s paid for this arrangement?

  9. Andrew Dahm says:

    Open processes don’t form abscesses.

  10. shadmarsh says:

    You could name it the News Corp. Flaming Vagina of Death Arena and I still wouldn’t give a rats ass. #mytwocents

  11. RHS says:

    Why have the words Asheville and Civic been removed from the side of the Civic Center that overlooks Lexington Ave last week (while the word Center remains) before this deal has been officially approved by City Council? I noticed this last week even before the deal was announced.

  12. TJ says:

    D: I DID catch the facetious nature of your comment. I really do understand that… ;-). Haven’t seen you lately, but, I can’t imagine you have changed THAT much. And, as fond as I really AM of Apple gadgets, I really think no one would actually name it that… hopefully.

    Other than for image-sake, I really could care less what it’s called. Like Gordon noted, and I said once, I would still call it the Asheville Civic Center.

    After attending the Mannheim Steamroller concert there, I can DEFINITELY see the need for upgrades. I guess I have seen enough big names in CA and NYC to last me a lifetime, and I’d hate to see that happen to Asheville.

    The bumper sticker reads: “Keep Asheville Weird.” not, “Keep Asheville… well, let’s make that a fill-in-the-blank….

    Let’s just say, I can’t imagine a shot of the beautiful mountains and sunset/rise, mixed in with a HUGE sign advertising some phone company.

    That’s a “different” kind of weird, and nothing to brag about, IME.

    But, hey, how to raise funds? Keep the community invested. How many will feel less invested as corporate America infests the scenery?

    However, I guess that sign would still be preferable to the flashing sign Mark Cates had up… 😉

  13. Dixiegirlz says:

    I may be wrong here, but I think the REAL money is in Convention business. (Least that was true of other towns I’ve lived in.) To that regard, we already have several options (GPI, Biltmore Inn, & Harrah’s in Cherokee) that directly compete with the Civic Center when size and convenience are considered…and the Civic Center is the least desirable of the available venues. No US Cellular Signage and food courts are going to change that reality.

    Then there is the future prospect of the “Performance Center”…which would again compete directly with the Civic Center. If this does come to be, it too will leave the CC in the dust.

    It may be time to throw in the towel on the Civic Center…it was obviously a very poor design,…and no amount of bandaids seem to be fixing the mistakes. Or putting lipstick on a pig…it’s still a pig.

  14. Joe Cobble says:

    I lived in “HotLanta” (Now “HellLanta”)from 60’s until 2001 when I moved to paradise/AVL. I worked on the “Forward Atlanta” campaign promoting Atlanta until I realized that our campaign name, in my mind had become “Backward Atlanta”. The greedy developers came. The Corporatist s came. The whole world came -:) Now we’re all coming here -:) I LOVE our magical Asheville slap-dab in the middle of our most beautiful/inspirational/life changing WNC Mountains that deserve our thoughtful vigilance, protection. “We the People”, residents have a sustainable self-interest. Corporations and out-of-town developers have only a profit interest. As our economy recovers, they will be beating down our doors to buy a piece of the action! Maybe if part of their deal is to relocate/live here, OK. On the other hand, I think I could grow into, live with, enjoy calling our civic center “The Apple Center” if we could get their paid endorsement and some “Apple Jobs”. After all, Hendersonville our sister city is the apple city of NC. I’m sure that they would love to share/visit our/their new civic center for national entertainment. Maybe we could throw in a little “water” to sweeten the deal.

  15. Tom Buckner says:

    I have always found naming rights to be a bit… icky. Isn’t there ANYTHING the corporations can’t stick their names on nowadays?

    Idiocracy, which I recommend to those who haven’t seen it (nearly everyone) is ostensibly about how people are getting stupider and stupider… but when Fox saw how anticorporate Mike Judge’s film was, they buried it with a release on ten screens and no advertising. I’m reminded of Idiocracy because in that movie, corporations are so powerful that the crops are failing because they get irrigated with a sports drink.

  16. Tim Peck says:

    I like the sound of “U.S. Cellular Center.” It sounds profitable to me. I like that.

  17. Tim Peck says:

    You go, Agnes!

  18. Lindsey Simerly says:

    This public-private partnership is the best option we have at this point. While I wish that the City of Asheville had so much money that we never had to sell a speck of public space to advertising, that simply isn’t reality. One of the main reasons for this is

    “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.”

    Unless that changes we have to come up with other ways to fund our infrastructure and services. Sometimes that will mean selling advertising space. While I would prefer a world with no billboard, tv commercials, or brand names, it simply isn’t realistic. We cannot ask the city to ignore this revenue stream while their funding options are so limited, even if we don’t like the name.

  19. Jason Bugg says:

    That last counterpoint is beyond stupid.

    I look at this like I looked at Urban Outfitters coming into downtown: did I like it happening? Not at all. Was I aware that no local business could come into that eyesore of a building and make it a palatable and profitable part of downtown? Yes.

    The only thing that I want is to make sure that the Asheville Civic Center and the City of Asheville gets top dollar for the naming rights. If you have a problem with naming the Civic Center after a large business because it makes you feel like your city has sold out while you attend WWE Wrestling Events and concerts from the goofs that brought you “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” then you are an asshole.

  20. Diogenes says:

    @The Matt Mittan Show
    How is it that #avl city council is just NOW wondering abt the process followed used to sign a $1.3M naming deal

    What he said.

  21. Felicity Green says:

    Honestly, who cares? It’s not like anyone is ever going to actually USE the name – it will be called the Civic Center by anyone who refers to it in actual day to day speech. Nobody ever uses corporate names and by the time the name change sticks we will all be old and feeble and nobody will care what the hell it’s called, unless it’s called “that condemned vacant collapsing nightmare at the corner of Haywood and Hiawassee.” What matters is that the place gets fixed. The ongoing wringing of hands, wailing and gnashing of teeth at the sad state of the Civic Center has been continuing for over a decade now while the building itself continues to decline. So let’s fix it. Call it whatever but fix it.

  22. Mister Smug says:

    Amen to everyone who sees the absurdity of complaining about what name goes on this building. Everyone will still call it the Civic Center no matter what entity buys the naming rights to it. If we called it the WhiteWave Chicken Style Seitan Center maybe that would appease the whiny twits.

  23. Jason Bugg says:

    “Man if I see that sign on the side of the building with some stupid corporate name on it, it’s going to ruin this town! I’m going to move to Portland or Brooklyn where I don’t have to deal with stuff like this.”

  24. Tom Buckner says:

    Hmmm… how about Creamy Nougat Center?

  25. Scott Reese says:

    I’m pretty sure this whole conversation is irrelevant if the sign is already being change to reflect the acquisition correct? I’m totally lost.

    Wanna flood this town with money so you can stop having these irrelevant conversations? Simple, approve medical cannabis. Millions.

    Yeah, go ahead and laugh.

  26. TJ says:

    How about the “Flying Spaghetti Monster’s Lair?”

  27. Misconceptions abound.

    The Civic Center turned a profit for the past two years. And if we would change our accounting for parking, to include the parking revenues generated by Civic Center events, it would show up as a large profit.

    The upfit currently underway is going to radically improve the venue, thanks to about $5 million from Buncombe County, Asheville and the TDA. And this follows the City investment in a new roof the previous year.

    The amount of money in the proposed U.S. Cellular deal is pretty small compared to annual revenues. While it is touted as a $1.3 million deal, that’s a POTENTIAL $1.3 million over 8 years.

    It is actually $150,000 per year for five years, more or less depending on attendance figures, and then a possible renewal for three more years. 150K is not nothing, but it isn’t a real big deal compared to the City’s $132 million annual budget. For example, it would amount to approximately a .18 cent increase in property taxes.

    If we float a bond issue for capital improvements (sidewalks, greenways, energy efficiency retrofits, etc.) and voters approve it, this amount of money for the Civic Center is less than an afterthought.

    If we can garner a meaningful amount of money through sale of naming rights, it seems worthy of consideration. But it deserves a great deal of public discussion.

    As the process has been described to date, U.S. Cellular came to the City with an offer. I would assume that Staff then contacted a couple of dozen other potential corporate sponsors to gauge interest, and I’ve asked Staff to provide that information, together with what if any other offers were made, and together with an explanation of the methodology used for calculating the value of naming rights.

    There are three methods in general use, the most accurate is deemed to be an estimate of “impressions” (the number of times potential customers will see/hear a name) multiplied by the market price for impressions in the target city/market. (There is a current price per impression in print, radio, tv, Web marketing.) So the value of a name that appears on every ticket, in every ad for every show, and rolls off commentators lips when they’re presenting a basketball game or roller-girl match, is the result of best guesses and simple multiplication.

    In this case, given our growing fame and Civic Center success, I’d think that the number of impressions will be huge, which is exactly why U.S. Cellular is interested. Naming rights payments across the country are all over the map with big venues in big cities garnering multi-million dollar deals. So far, I’ve seen this U.S. Cellular deal compared to Medford, Oregon, where the company named a sports field complex.

    How many of you have heard of Medford? Raise your hands.

  28. Nan Davis says:

    thanks, Cecil – it is disturbing to think that a decision was made without public input – and the info around is that Mayor Bellamy made the deal with US Cellular. Is that correct – would like to know – but info also around is that the phone at the CC was answered with the new name, and a new sign is being prepared, so based on that is appears that a deal was made. That is just not right.
    If we are going to sell the name – let’s make sure we get the best dollar possible so as a citizen I would like to know about the process, offers, etc.
    As a citizen it feels that too often we are told of major decisions made by our Council after the fact – let’s don’t do that here.

  29. Gordon Smith says:

    I inquired about branding issues with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and received this reply:

    Thank you for your email. We’re supportive of the Civic Center and, as you probably know, supported the current contracted renovations through a grant of $2 million from the Tourism Product Development Fund. The $2 million grant was specifically earmarked to capital construction within the arena and gave the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority naming rights to the arena, which will be called the Arena. We believe the name will drive visitors to our web site, providing information on things to do, where to eat, and places to stay, and ultimately encouraging longer stays and repeat visits to the area.

    We understand that selling the naming rights to the Civic Center was crucial to completing current and future phases of renovation. We also understand there are plans for some exciting improvements on the horizon. The Asheville area destination brand promises visitors they will have enriching experiences while they are here. To that end, the upgraded seating and other renovations are central to visitor satisfaction. We want to ensure that visitors will have a pleasant experience, which will increase the likelihood that they will return to see another show or tournament.

    Critical to continuing to fulfill the BCTDA mission and marketing efforts is driving overnight stays, particularly in off-season months. The renovations not only allowed the Southern Conference to return to Asheville in a shoulder-season, but will also allow the City to secure additional theater and music performances.

    Naming rights have been sold to conference and civic centers in destinations throughout the United States in an effort to keep those centers sustainable, as well as to ease the tax burden on residents as aging centers require repairs. Visitors have come to expect it. Visitors go to a destination or attraction because of the experience, the name isn’t a factor in their decision. In short, we don’t believe that the US Cellular naming will negatively affect the Asheville area destination brand.

    Please let me know if I can provide any other feedback or information.

  30. shadmarsh says:

    I’m willing to spend $2.5 million, if I can name it the “Heywood Jablome Memorial Arena.”

  31. TJ says:

    Wow! They don’t come because of the name? So, they come to Asheville, because they’re confusing it with Seattle?

    Oh, and I guess we should let the Biltmore House and Grove Park Inn know that their name doesn’t matter. After all, any old bed and breakfast would do just fine.

    Now, REALLY, I am not really concerned with the name to be.
    Still, let’s not be ludicrous…of course names matter.

    And, even more, honest and open discussions over business deals is ever so much more important.

    People will eventually forget any name change, possibly, but, I doubt they will forget feeling brushed aside as inconsequential in the whole process.

  32. Linda says:

    I can see a public private partnership is probably the easiest alternative to public financing but I have a few ideas:
    1) What about using local private foundation funds (like the Park Conservancy did?
    2) What about increasing property tax rates on part time residents?
    3) What about getting a consortium of local businesses and using their names on programs, inside the civic center, etc.? UNCA did that with their new sports arena.
    4) If US Cellular is the only option, change the deal to less years for the same price.

    I don’t know. The state has our hands tied with taxes in so many ways.

  33. futilitarian says:

    Just a few thoughts…

    Cecil, you always seem to bring a lot of clarity to issues for me. Thanks.

    The name feels slimy to me. The way this is happening feels slimy to me.

    I keep forgetting that this issue really isn’t about me as a resident and one who loves this town and area. It is about those who might visit and spend money here.

    In my daily living, I avoid the corporate experience as much as possible. I try to do business with independent merchants without corporate logos slathered all over themselves and big box stars in their eyes.

    When I travel, I avoid the corporate experience as well. I stay in the little mom and pop motels which are harder and harder to find. I eat in the little restaurants with names unknown outside of the local area. I shop in the little stores. I travel the back roads and avoid the highways and big cities when possible. I WANT to experience the local culture of an area. I don’t care about a carefully groomed facade devoid of a soul. I have had some awesome experiences this way.

    If I were to visit Asheville for the first time, I would avoid the US Cellular Center like the plague no matter what was taking place. I would be inclined to visit an Asheville Civic Center or an Orange Peel or a Diana Wortham Theater. I would shop at the Mast General Store, not Walmart. I would eat at Chai Pani, not Applebees.

    I would be happy that the local residents were proud enough to pay a few cents in extra taxes to maintain their local culture to share with me. Warts and all. I would pay them for the privilege.

  34. TJ says:


    And you would be the kind of tourist that I would love to show around, and, you are the tourist who would REALLY get to know the places you visit…. not just the tour book sites.

    Well done…

  35. Andrew Dahm says:

    It’s regrettable when folks who represent something in the legal sense aren’t willing to “represent” in the hippity-hop music sense: Down with it, wearing the colors, and other expressions that people younger than me could come up with.

    It would be a very good thing if the people who represent Asheville – Council, yes, but also and probably particularly staff – would stop cowering and fawning over big old companies that are out-of-scale with our economy and damage our “brand.”

    If some big company wants to have their name on our civic center, they’re damaging our brand. This is Asheville, home of the independents, the tinhorns, the minor-leaguers that people drive four hours to see. Every chain store, corporate logo on a civic facility, billboard and strip mall diminishes the uniqueness of our economy and our value to potential visitors.

    If Asheville had the highest unemployment rate in the state, or if our property values had dropped more than any city in the state, or if our crime rate had spiked beyond that of any city in the state, I could see the point of kowtowing to Tyson foods (go ahead, pay minimum wage, chop off some fingers and throw chicken guts in the French Broad!) to locate some jobs, any jobs, here, please please please. The facts are, however, that our unemployment is among the lowest in the state, property values are flat to slightly off, and crime is down.

    One wonders what the place would look like if Council and staff had gotten their way in the 70s and leveled downtown to build a shopping mall. In fact, I think everybody on Council should read up on that plan and do some serious soul-searching. What was the motivation for condemning the downtown that drives our economy today and throwing up a mall? How panicky was city government to consider a strategy like that to make developers happy, to appear “pro-business”? What are the real resources of this economy, and how do Council and staff damage those resources by failing to believe in them?

    If the recession ever ends, disposable income across the southeast will increase, and a whole, whole lot of it will be spent here, if Council and staff begin to understand reality. Moreover, the Asheville “brand” on bottles of beer, outdoor equipment and solar equipment (I can dream) will sell faster and for more money throughout the region, bringing dollars here.

    If, on the other hand, the area is sold out to the lowest, no-est bidder and the place gets papered with chains, big-monoculture employers and homogenized product cheese food (often at taxpayer expense!), I predict a boom in places like Highlands, Boone and Hot Springs.

    During the New Belgium imbroglio (again, apologies to everyone, at all times, for my case of rabies over that), I got the impression that refusing to sign off on corporate incentives somehow made one anti-business. I got the impression that this vibe emanates from the very walls of city hall, as if chasing out-of-town megacorps is the very reason for existence of Council and staff.

    I would commend a thorough study of marketing and pricing theory to all. Representing Asheville is not the same as representing Gastonia.

  36. TJ says:

    @Andrew: you make an interesting point and actually brought something to mind.

    Anyone else notice how quickly chain stores open and close, in and out of the malls? What if Circuit City had bought rights before they collapsed, and the losing name was stuck in peoples’ minds?

    I seem to recall that the mall near Toys R Us is half empty? So, exactly why do we want those big names that over-inflate so much they implode?

  37. Tom Buckner says:

    “I got the impression that refusing to sign off on corporate incentives somehow made one anti-business.”

    Doesn’t it? Isn’t this the McUnited WalStates of BankAmerica?

  38. Gordon Smith says:

    I appreciate all the input here, y’all. An important point to bring up is that the community has been crying out for Civic Center improvements for well over a decade. This movement is a government response to a stated desire from the community.

    When the community is saying they want lots of infrastructure, yet we have very few revenue options, responsive government is going to keep trying to respond. If the message is yes we want lots more infrastructure, no we don’t want taxes, and no we don’t want private partnership, then I feel stuck in a no-win situation.

    I’m open to your ideas as to how to resolve the big picture. Please keep ’em coming.

  39. Andrew Dahm says:

    Three-year business license abatements for new small businesses started by Buncombe residents in Asheville. Aggressive lobbying for greater share of sales tax revenue. Aggressive lobbying for greater share of occupancy tax revenue. Smaller sponsorship increments when soliciting corporate support for infrastructure to allow greater imprinting by locally-owned businesses (see above re: buy-a-brick). Small. Homegrown. Asheville.

  40. Gordon Smith says:


    Thanks for offering up those ideas.

    I’ve been lobbying pretty strongly for sales tax/occupancy tax, and it’s going to take public pressure on County Commissioners and state legislators to get us those changes. There are currently smaller sponsorships available for the Asheville Civic Center – please contact Sam Powers, and he’ll offer you all sorts of opportunities.

    I’ll ask about your first suggestion to determine whether state statutes allow it. So many statutes prevent us from preferring local anything in matters of fees, contracts, taxing, etc.

  41. Andrew Dahm says:

    Plowing money into local non-profits just now, but Civic Center bucks are on my radar.

    Our county library system gives library cards free to county residents (show proof of residency, utility bill or something) but charges money for library cards issued to those out-of-county. That’s a fee differential based on residency. Business licenses are a fee, not a tax. So, if we talk real fast and have a good lawyer . . .

    Think about preferences as a philosophy, rather than a nuts-and-bolts set of strategies that can be swatted down by Raleigh, and there may be a little more creativity. Particularly with reference to incentives, but don’t get me started.

    I’m sounding like Tim Peck here, but I do believe that the folks here can *ahem* “voluntarily contribute” something like $150K/yr to the Civic Center. Running a capital campaign like that could be a lot of fun, generate a lot of publicity for Asheville, and ingratiate us with the free-marketers in Raleigh. It would also be a lot of work for city staff. Inertia much?

  42. Tom Sullivan says:

    Thanks for that link with “comparables,” Gordon. Off the cuff, the price doesn’t look out of line. We just want to be assured that the mayor and staff aren’t engaged in Obama-level negotiating for the naming rights.

    Still, it would have been better to have citizen input. For better and sometimes for worse, it’s just the way citizens passionate about Asheville like things done.

    @Lindsey: Here, here.

    @Cecil, vis a vis researching “impressions”: Thank you for your service. Better you than me.

  43. Cliff Joslin says:

    I would like to thank all involved in finally getting some outside sources of revenue that don’t put the burden solely on property tax payers. I don’t think Re-naming the civic center will have any effect on our community life and the Naysayers should have come forth with suggestions before this time. They should have been aware of these efforts since they have been talked about for several years.

  44. The Civic Center is worth perhaps $40 million or thereabouts, and the City has recently put a few million in, as has the county and the TDA. So an advertising buy by U.S. Cellular of $1.3 million is a small part of the cost. How can we justify naming it for them?

    Naming rights are a kind of fraud on the public. The false impression left by a name on a building, is that the entity for whom it is named built it. Or inspired it. Or paid for it.

    What is happening here is a corporation is trying to buy advertising. Now we can assist that corporation in its advertising goals or we cannot, but let’s acknowledge what we’re doing.

    It’s just fiction that we need to sell the advertising rights. In the eight years of the proposed contract, during which U.S. Cellular would pay the City $1.3 million, the City of Asheville will get and spend over a billion dollars. (Our budget of $135 million times eight equals $1,080,000,000.00.)

    Selling the naming rights is at the convienence of and for the benefit of U.S. Cellular, not the citizens of Asheville.

  45. Gordon Smith says:

    Hi, Charlie. Thanks for stopping by.

    We’ve made a commitment to renovating the Civic Center, and a lot of government partners have agreed to invest millions of dollars towards that goal. Any naming rights would supplement those public dollars. If you’re making suggestions regarding other revenue options, I’m quite open to hearing them. Which areas of the budget would you cut to achieve these dollars. Alternately, which taxes or fees would you support raising?

    Thanks for getting those PARC emails out – they’ve helped to stimulate a good discussion.

  46. Andrew Dahm says:

    I think an annual or biennial capital campaign for Chamber, AIR and ABA members would be a really good source of revenue. Naming rights would not be involved, because these are local businesses getting local play in the local media for their local good deeds. If you look at 20 basis points (say, .002 of gross sales) you’re a good part of the way to $130K/yr, and you’ve still got naming rights (maybe later, on a spruced-up building getting more TV dates = more money) in your back pocket.

    I live here, and I’m aware that the Civic Center’s had problems for some time. I followed the SoCon deal with some interest, and figured we’d have some sort of fundraising initiative right about now. I’m a little surprised at the naming rights thing: It lacks imagination and doesn’t cohere with how the city’s marketing itself. It’s also being carried out at a rate of speed that makes miscalculation (in terms of the public fisc and/or an elected official’s “local” cred) pretty much inevitable.

    I may not have used the word “local” 50 times, but I tried.

  47. Of course it’s silly to talk about the obligation to make up the money we don’t get if we reject the corporate advertising pitch–”Which areas of the budget would you cut to achieve these dollars. Alternately, which taxes or fees would you support raising?”

    What if U.S. Cellular had offered $40,000 or %150,000 instead? Would we have to raise taxes to make up that money if we rejected those offers?

  48. Davyne Dial says:

    I have a hard time buying the ”Which areas of the budget would you cut to achieve these dollars. Alternately, which taxes or fees would you support raising?” response to the US Cellular sweetheart deal.

    I have first hand knowledge that there is little to NO oversight on monies allotted to various programs, entities, within the City and County. Gordon you sit on the Boards and Commissions Committee. There needs to be a new found awareness by appointees that their roles is one of fiduciary oversight and a responsibility to protect the public trust that those allocations come from. Start there!