Considerations for Naming Performing Arts Centers: Memories…Money…or Both?

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Jerry Garcia AmphitheaterTwo recent new items from San Francisco caught our eye, related to the power of a facility’s name.

First, some local citizens are upset about the proposed renaming of the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater as part of a public-private partnership. Critics feel this betrays the memory of the Grateful Dead band founder, in whose honor the amphitheater was named in 2005 – 10 years after his death.

Second, the San Francisco 49ers’ future $1.2 billion stadium will be named Levi’s Stadium under a $220 million, 20-year naming rights agreement with Levi Strauss & Co.

And while you many not consider amphitheaters and football stadiums as traditional performing arts centers, most do host a variety of events, including concerts.

Names stir emotions and evoke memories. Brand names stir sales. Naming rights contracts for sports stadiums are now commonplace as teams – from high school through pro – rely on this revenue source.

49ers Stadium - Levis-HeaderCultural and community assets like parks, amphitheaters and concert halls have generally not received the same level of funding from corporate sponsors as stadiums receive. The most recognizable cultural sponsors are often wealthy patrons who receive name recognition for their support.

Philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie funded one of our country’s most famous performance venues, historic Carnegie Hall in New York City, which opened in 1891. If built today, it likely would be named U.S. Steel Hall.

Some notable 21st century performance venues incorporate both corporate and individual donor names, such as the Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

While respecting history and artistic integrity, we hope that more businesses recognize the value of supporting arts organizations and facilities.

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