A New Name?
Mayor Terry Bellamy and U.S. Cellular just announced a plan to sell naming rights for the Asheville Civic Center to U.S. Cellular. The Citizen-Times published sketches of the Civic Center with its new signs and the Civic Center staff started answering the phone "U. S. Cellular Center" before the City Manager stopped them.
The plan is to rename the Civic Center the U.S. Cellular Center, for $1.3 million over 8 years. This means "U.S. Cellular" will be mentioned countless times on TV, radio, and in the newspapers every time a concert or event comes to our Civic Center.
Advertising like this is worth a lot, perhaps several million dollars. Competitive bids would tell us just how much, but there were no bids -- just the deal with U.S. Cellular.
If we do want to rename the Civic Center, shouldn't we have the discussion first and a decision later, instead of the other way around?
Maybe we don’t want to sell the naming rights. Maybe we'd like to keep the old name. Maybe we'd rather call it the Jeff Bowen Center. Nobody's asked.
And if we do sell the naming rights, shouldn't they go to the highest bidder in a transparent way?
Lame Duck Council to Decide
The timing of the vote is extraordinary: it is to be held at the only council meeting after the election and before the new council takes office. We couldn't discuss this during the election because we weren't told this plan was in the works. If the vote is held as scheduled, the newly elected Council members won't vote on it.
What’s the rush? The people of Asheville, the 99%, built and paid for the Civic Center. Now we’re being told it should be named for the 1%; for a company that has nothing to do with it.
The Citizen-Times reports: Bellamy said the $810,000 investment from U.S. Cellular is equivalent to a a 2-cent hike in city property taxes. "This is huge. This says to our community that we are not going to raise your taxes to go into infrastructure at the Civic Center.”
Unfortunately, the Mayor is mistaken. The planned payment from U.S. Cellular is nowhere near a 2-cent hike in property taxes. The true figure is close to two tenths of a cent. Bad information leads to bad decisions. The Citizen-Times also reported: “This is a good day for Asheville when we have a New York Stock Exchange-listed company wanting to give us money,” said Sam Powers, the Civic Center director.
Again, this is a mistake. U.S. Cellular wants to buy naming rights in a private deal instead of through a public bidding process. They are buying advertising, not "... wanting to give us money."
Council needs to vote NO on this, and then negotiate a deal in sunlight.
They should vote to request competitive bids and hold discussions to see if residents want to proceed. If the reaction is positive they should get the best bid and then move forward.
And this just in:
Dear City Council,
Ingles was surprised at the announcement that the Asheville Civic Center would be renamed the US Cellular Center. We were not aware of any process that the naming rights of the civic center was open to bidding. As one of Asheville’s largest employers and tax payers, we would be interested in this process.
On behalf of Ingles, I would like to discuss this with some one on the city council as soon as possible. I will be out of town Monday and Tuesday but could be reached via cell phone at any time, 828-713-7648. If it would be more convenient for me to contact someone, please email me name and contact information.
Thank you for your consideration,
Vice President Sales & Marketing
Ingles Markets, Inc.
Please email City Council and the newspapers to let them know how you feel about this.
-- the folks at PARC
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