Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Bank Shots

So it's not going to be Ashburn Field or Schmidt Stadium or Klein Ballpark. The Phillies' new stadium, like its South Philadelphia hockey, basketball, and football brethren, will be named for a financial services sponsor.

As corporate names go, Citizens Bank Park is nowhere near as heinous as some others. San Diego's new stadium will be called Petco Park -- appropriate, given the number of years the Padres have played like dogs -- and Houston, of course, was home to Enron Field before that company imploded in scandal. Citizens Park -- minus the "Bank" reference -- would have been a nice, populist choice, but as company officials acknowledged, the whole point of buying naming rights is to emphasize the brand.

Since the news was leaked many weeks ago, and was even confirmed yesterday, today's announcement surprised no one. This morning's Inquirer and Daily News offer different avenues of coverage, with sports business writer Larry Eichel's piece landing on the front page of the Inky and sportswriter Dana Pennett O'Neill's story folded into the back part of the DN. The Inquirer also includes on the front page of the magazine a pedestrian effort from the once-sharp Karen Heller lamenting that Citizens Bank Park has no local connection. What about Pat's, Geno's, Tastykake, or Campbell's Soup, she asks, predictably.

The challenge will be how we Philadelphians refer to the new ballyard. Veterans Stadium was perfectly distilled to the Vet, and the Spectrum's name was so singular it didn't require a nickname. The construction of the CoreStates Center ushered in a more problematic era. I pushed hard for "the Core," but almost as soon as the doors opened, First Union swooped in from Charlotte and bathed the area in green. And so for several years now we've lived with, yes, the F.U.C. in South Philly. As can be imagined, that never really caught on with the mainstream media, which often referred to the facility as "the Center" or "the bank building." And First Union is due to disappear in a matter of weeks after being gobbled up by Wachovia. Stay tuned.

Thus far the consensus reduction of the Eagles' new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field, is the unoriginal "the Linc." I'll be at the Vet tonight for the Phils-Braves tilt, and I'll be walking by the future Citizens Bank Park. If any nickname lightning strikes, I'll let you know.

If anything, I sincerely hope the new sponsor inspires some better investing on the Phillies' part. The jacked-up payroll has resulted in a 10-game deficit in National League East and an offense that scores less than I did in college. Fifty-million-dollar man Pat Burrell, in addition to dragging down the middle of the Phils' order, is destroying my fantasy league team. The Tomatoes sit at seventh place in an 11-team league, and if Pat the Bat continues being Pat the Bust, I'm dead. I mean, let's keep things in perspective, right?


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