How about '(Your Name Here) Art Center'?

Question of naming Palo Alto city facilities to help refurbish or expand them referred to full City Council

With aging facilities and tight budgets, the City of Palo Alto faces a quandary: Should it grant naming rights to buildings, rooms or other city-owned properties to recognize major donors?

Offering naming rights could bring in millions of dollars to help repair and rebuild facilities, according to a consultant familiar with standard fundraising techniques.

And if the city does allow naming, who should decide how much the naming rights are worth, which names are acceptable and whether renaming facilities with existing names is permissible?

Despite disparate views, the City Council's Policy and Services Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to ask for the full council to discuss the city's overall "facility naming policy" before the committee tackles complicated details of how to implement such a policy.

Anticipated projects that could offer naming opportunities include the Palo Alto Art Center, libraries and the Junior Museum and Zoo.

City staff members have recommended the council consider offering naming rights to a non-profit fundraising group involved in a specific project. The group could then present options to potential donors, according to temporary Management Analyst Linda Klemczak.

She presented the committee with a detailed set of related issues, such as the use of commercial names, minimum donation levels and potential re-naming opportunities.

But Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell said the full council should first decide if it's even interested in considering exchanging names for money.

"The way I look at it is, can we be bought?" Cordell asked. "Perhaps you can tell in the tenor of my comments I'm not particularly interested in our buildings being bought."

Councilman Peter Drekmeier said he has mixed feelings on the issue.

"I could be convinced either way," he said.

But other council and community members will have passionate opinions they want to express, he said, urging the committee to send the proposal on to the council.

Councilman John Barton said he is also torn about selling naming rights, but he thinks it's a necessity given the limits on the city's finances.

"Am I interested in a police building by Bob's Bail Bonds?" Barton asked. "Not particularly."

Instead, the city may have to compromise with, "This holding cell brought to you by Bob's Bail Bonds," Barton said, eliciting chuckles.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:20 pm

I have been thinking about this one before posting. It certainly brought chuckles when mentioning Bob's Bail Bonds, but no one chuckles about Monster Park, ATT Park, or HP Pavilion. I have no doubt that Bob's Bail Bonds Police HQ would not work, but we have many successful PA companies that could pay to name say a library, or an art center, and add to the overall PA flavor.

It brings to mind the Little League Teams that we see, not only on the uniform hats the boys wear, but also the write ups in the sports section.

As to whether it would bring more business to the sponsor, it would certainly bring an aspiring company that the man in the street has never heard of into the public eye. We could even up with a Google art Center or a Sun Theater.

I have no objection to either, provided that they had no real conflict of interest or even a stake in the product they were naming.
Since it now costs so much to build a library or whatever, getting sponsorship rather than never ending bonds may be the way to go.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2007 at 5:38 pm

Good idea. Donations drive building names at universities; why not town governments? If we let corporations sponsor events and programs, why not facilities? If we can have the HP Pavilion and AT&T Park, how about Wilson Sonsini Community Center and the Google Library?

Of course, we need to reserve the right to remove the name for bad conduct (and return the money), but that's all part of the deal.

It all sounds strange when it starts (as with naming rights on sports venues and bowl games) but after a while it is just part of the scenery.

Posted by TK, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2007 at 3:30 am

What a great idea, let's sell the whole City off!!!!

Posted by For Sale by City, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 17, 2007 at 11:53 am

I am a Palo Alto Resident.

Now when will the "City" put be up for sale?

Brave New World .....

Posted by History Buff, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2007 at 9:49 pm

There is certainly precedent for naming, locally think Lucie Stern Center, for sure, and maybe Spangenberg Theatre (I don't know if that was simply honoring one of the Spangenbergs, or a donation from them), and nationally the Carnegie libraries. Personally I like the sound of individuals, rather than companies, but would rather have that than several hundred dollars of bond payments a year, assuming they would be paying the bulk of a project and not just $1M or so(about $15 per resident).

Posted by Senior Blogger, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:01 am

I believe, that for $3,000,000 you can get your name on a Stanford building.

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:20 am

I think naming a building after the donor (who has paid to build the building or paid to totally renovate it) is a great idea, we just need to be sure we don't sell ourselves short.

The Little League Major's sponsors are a different story, I have to say it give me the creeps to read about "Joe's Hamburgers" beat "R&B Ice Cream". These are little kids, their teams should have real names (think Cubs, White Sox, or Purple People Eaters...) The Little League has plenty of money, must they really accept sponsorships in that way? The younger teams are still sponsored - but have names too.

Posted by Little League Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:42 am


I too used to think the same as you but have changed my mind for various reasons.

Firstly, as you say it is the older boys' teams that use the sponsorship names and quite often they really use nicknames for the teams rather than the full name. They do tend to identify themselves well with these names and when you get used to them, it really seems ok. I do agree that it reads strange in the sports write ups in the paper.

Secondly, many moons ago, someone gave a large donation to Little League on the provision that there would be no advertising banners hung around the ballpark. This means that sponsorship is the only alternative to paid advertising at the park which is what other Little Leagues do. I think it is a better idea having the adverstising on the back of the hats rather than on big banners around the ballpark.

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2007 at 11:35 am

Little League Parent -

Sponsorship is fine and really preferable to a bunch of banners. The sponsor names on shirts, hats, etc. is fine too - I'd just rather read about the Palo Alto Cubs, sponsored by Joe's Ice Cream in the paper instead of the company name over and over... I think its way too commercial for elementary and middle school kids teams. I know they use nicknames internally - but what you read in the paper is the full company name - often 10 or 12 times in an article.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 1:48 pm

PA Mom and LLP - for what its worth, in a previous town we handled team sponsors much as PA Mom is saying - teams got sponsored, but also had "team" names, and were known as the "Red Sox" not the "Fish Markets" (always makes me chuckle when I see it on a jersey). The sponsor got its name on the jersey, no problem; but it avoided the awkwardness of calling a team by a company name.

College bowl games are similar - if it were just the "Tostitos Bowl" that would seem strange; instead it is the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl," which you can also shorten to "Fiesta Bowl" when you like.

Posted by Marge, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 20, 2007 at 9:10 am

I have always thought that naming something after yourself was weird. How about donating money for a building, and naming it after someone who has made a big difference in your life, and the community? Like the Hugh Center Meeting Room? Or the Ron Wyden Center? Or, the Patty McEwen rehersal room at the Children's Theater? Just a thought.

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