Naming public facilities after sponsors is tricky

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 8, 2019 - 5:00am Updated: January 8, 2019 - 11:30am
Image Credit: CFJC Today

IT USED TO BE that we named public facilities after geographical locations or people who had done a lot for the community or the country. Now we sell names to people and corporations instead.

The field at Hillside Stadium will now be called Warner Rentals Field. Doesn’t have much of a ring to it but Warner Rentals, a fine Kamloops company, has signed a three-year deal with the City for naming rights worth $112,500. That saves the taxpayers some money.

The facility will likely still be commonly known as Hillside Stadium anyway. Warner Rentals, the City points out, has been an avid supporter of the Tournament Capital Centre since 2014 and has purchased other sponsorships in the TCC Fieldhouse and Canada Games Aquatic Centre.

Though naming rights are now common— the oft-renamed arena down at Riverside Park the most obvious example — the City will tell you it’s not easy finding sponsors.

So, kudos to Warner Rentals for stepping up once again.

The more concerning practice comes with permanently naming public facilities for individuals or corporations who make major donations.

Renting a name for a few years is one thing, but if a public facility is permanently going to bear the name of a sponsor, shouldn’t that person or company actually build and maintain it?

Otherwise, no matter how generous the donation, it’s still the taxpayers who will put out the biggest share.

The Warner Rentals deal strikes an okay balance — corporate sponsorship of part of a larger facility for a limited period of time. That’s much different than permanently selling the name of a public facility as has been done in some other cases.

Something to think about as the City contemplates new public amenities.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at [email protected].