Stadium naming rights can mean millions to spring training teams, communities

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Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News

The Boston Red Sox got it. Now the Minnesota Twins want it, too.

As the Twins and Lee County negotiate improvements to the Lee County Sports Complex, one item on the team's wish list is the naming rights to Hammond Stadium, where the Major League Baseball team holds spring training.

When the Red Sox renegotiated their contract with Lee County for the new stadium in 2009, the county agreed to sell the rights to the team.

In an effort to give each of the teams the same treatment, the county may sign over the rights to the Twins, which could be a win-win. The naming rights to a stadium can be a strong source of revenue for both the team and the county.

Of the 15 teams in the Grapefruit League, only two — the Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies — control naming rights to their stadiums.

As part of the Red Sox's agreement with JetBlue Airlines, their new stadium's namesake, the team is paying the county $150,000 a year for eight years, or $1.2 million. Terms of the agreement between the Red Sox and JetBlue are not public record, but in regards to naming rights deals, Lee County's deal with the Red Sox makes it the highest paid community in the Grapefruit League.

"We will no doubt make sure that we are treated fairly and equitably," Commissioner Ray Judah said of a possible deal with the Twins. "Any naming rights sold from the Lee County Sports complex, Lee County will be compensated in a similar fashion with the (JetBlue Stadium) naming rights. But they are two different market teams. Can't say they'll have the same amount.

"The compensation has to be relative to what the Twins receive for the naming rights."

Earlier this month Lee County learned it was the only county to apply for a $15 million state grant to be put toward improvements at a spring training stadium. That development should allow the Twins to get at least $30 million worth of improvements to Hammond Stadium, since the county must match the grant.

The Twins wish list would cost at least $45 million and includes Hammond Stadium naming rights.

"The Red Sox were allowed to have naming rights, not sure we can tell the Twins they can't," said Jeff Mielke, director of Lee County Sports Authority. "Part of this exercise is to make the two facilities as close to equal in terms of amenities and player development needs, especially revenue opportunities for both clubs."

The Phillies, who train at Bright House Field in Clearwater, control of every part of the stadium's naming rights, including the stadium, the bullpen and the pavilion. All of those deals brought in $102,992 in 2012, with about a third going to the city of Clearwater.

Since the Phillies maintain multiple naming rights contracts, the amount the team brings in for selling those rights varies each year, officials said.

Three other communities with Grapefruit League teams — St. Lucie County, the city of Dunedin and the city of Jupiter — maintain control of the naming rights to their stadiums. Their deals bring in between $26,000 and $100,000 per year, according to city and county records.

Terms of the naming rights for the Atlanta Braves' stadium — Champion Stadium at ESPN Wild World of Sports in Walt Disney World — are undisclosed between Hanesbrand Inc. and Walt Disney World Resort.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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