Corporate names come with a price
DECEMBER 3, 2001
– Despite the biggest bankruptcy filing in U-S history Enron Corporation made it known on this date in 2001 that it intended to keep the naming rights to the home of the Houston Astros – Enron Field.
This created a sticky situation for Astros ownership which wanted out of the deal with a company that in the span of a couple months became the poster child for corporate greed. Despite the bankruptcy, Enron found a way to satisfy its financial obligations to keep its name on the ballpark (wonder how that sat with the 7,500 Enron employees who lost their jobs and pensions).
formerly Enron Field, now Minute Maid Park
The Astros soon went to court pleading Enron’s collapse “tarnished the reputation of the Houston Astros.” The court agreed and forced Enron to accept a buyout. By opening day 2002 Enron Field became Astros Field, and by 2003 it was Minute Maid Park.
Corporate naming rights of stadiums, arenas, ballparks and bowl games have become commonplace in the last twenty years; US Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox), Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies), Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Phoenix) and on and on. Many stadiums change their names almost as often as managers. The San Francisco Giants home field,
Park, used to be SBC Park, and before that it was Pac Bell. The Arizona Diamondbacks played in Bank One Ballpark, which became Chase Field.
A few venues have kept their traditional names. You couldn’t imagine Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field or The Rose Bowl with corporate names in front of them, but it could happen.
Bill Grimes is a member of SABR (The Society for American Baseball Research)