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Lights Out for Edison Field

Stadium will be named Angel Stadium of Anaheim after corporation pulls out of sponsorship agreement.

December 30, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The Angels put a new spin on the popular "turn back the clock" sports promotions Monday, announcing their ballpark would be renamed Angel Stadium of Anaheim next season and suggesting the team might keep that name permanently, rather than sell it to another corporate sponsor.

"We're going to take a long, hard look at that," Angel President Dennis Kuhl said.

As expected, the Angels and Edison International jointly confirmed Monday that the company had exercised its option to terminate the sponsorship agreement under which Anaheim Stadium had become Edison Field. An internal e-mail to Edison employees said, "The cost, particularly following the wonderful World Series win, had simply become greater than was sensible for our business to carry."

That cost was more than $3 million a year and rising, since the 1998 deal included a clause that triggered higher payments with increased media references to Edison Field. Kuhl and Edison spokesman Kevin Kelley said the parties were negotiating a new sponsorship deal, presumably one that would enable Edison to continue to advertise with the Angels at a far lower cost.

Edison's decision is not expected to affect the Angels' player payroll -- new owner Arte Moreno said in September he expected to lose $12 to $14 million next season, before signing free agents Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and Jose Guillen for a combined $76 million -- but could influence their marketing strategy.

Moreno's top priority is selling the Angels as a brand name, similar to the Yankees in baseball, the Lakers in the NBA or the Cowboys in the NFL. He already has removed "Anaheim" from the team's road jerseys in favor of "Angels." He plans to build a lavish training site for the Angels adjacent to his property in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear, Ariz.

The new stadium name stirs echoes of the team's old spring home at Angels Stadium in Palm Springs. Kuhl said the Angels did not consider reinstating the Anaheim Stadium name.

With Edison withdrawing from an agreement that otherwise extended through 2017, Moreno has the option to rebuff the wave of corporate names and build brand awareness through the "Angel Stadium" name, which over time could conjure up images just as the mention of Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium does now.

"It's an opportunity for us to get our name out there," Kuhl said. "We need to find out if there is a value in that."

Said sports business consultant David Carter, "The cost of building your brand is the cost of not taking the corporate dollar."

Strike 1 against a new corporate name could be the trend of those companies to perish or falter, forcing teams to adopt new names just as fans have gotten used to the old ones. The San Francisco Giants no longer play in Pacific Bell Park, the Houston Astros frantically hauled away their Enron Field signs, and the New England Patriots swapped CMGI Field for Gillette Stadium even before the stadium opened.

Strike 2 could be the history of the facility. New ballparks can command top dollar in naming-rights agreements but a corporate name in Anaheim in 2005 would be the third in three seasons and the fourth in the 40-year history of the stadium, not counting the "Big A" nickname.

"No one's going to want to refer to it as Coca-Cola Field or whatever it might be," Carter said. "For patrons, it will be the Big A."

Still, Moreno and Kuhl -- longtime colleagues in the advertising business -- plan to explore the market before making a decision on keeping or selling the Angel Stadium name. Dean Bonham, whose Denver company has been retained to sell naming rights to the new facilities of the Seattle Seahawks, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Coyotes, said the Angels would make comparatively less selling an old and previously named stadium but could still expect to make more than $3 million a year.

"Moreno has reinvigorated the team and the community," Bonham said. "That in itself would be a plus."

Under their stadium lease agreement with the city of Anaheim, the Angels retain all revenue from naming rights and can sell to any company so long as "the sponsor will not be a company primarily identified with the sale of tobacco products." The stadium name must include "Anaheim," so what was Edison International Field of Anaheim now will officially be known as Angel Stadium of Anaheim. In practice, Edison Field now will be known as Angel Stadium.

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