Selling Naming Rights To Arena A Realistic Strategy


by Barry Cardinael
Payson Multi-Event Center Project Manager

In answer to the issues raised by Elizabeth Horta in her anti- "Mazatzal Arena" letter of April 20:

First of all, the current arena is formally referred to as the rodeo grounds at Rumsey Park. There is currently no sign, anywhere, which says, "Payson Rodeo Grounds." And unlike the current arena, the new concept which is being discussed would include a 2-by-18 foot sign, hanging above the entrance, which would read, "Home of the World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo."

The basic reasons for creating the image of an arena/multi-event center, instead of just a "rodeo grounds," are two-fold: 1) so more people may make greater use of a public assembly facility, more often, for varied types of activities, and 2) in doing so, the popularity and financial stability of such a facility would help to insure and preserve the ongoing existence, solvency, and level of quality of an arena for rodeos and equestrian activities to take place for future generations.

Secondly, it was suggested that $250,000 is a drop in the bucket for the casino. This is not a drop in the bucket for the casino (or for anyone else I know of in Payson.) That amount of money could provide many things for many people, including at least two new homes within the tribal neighborhood.Contrary to public perception, the Tonto Apache Tribe has not agreed at this point in time to pay for the naming rights to the new multi-event center. The concept has only been discussed,not formally proposed or negotiated. Because we live in an open and democratic society, the idea, by legal necessity, was publicly disclosed once it became a topic which was discussed in exploratory terms within the walls of Town Hall. But, by no stretch of the imagination it is a "done deal."

Next, a comment was made that the casino previously said it would not disrupt charities in town. By and large, this has been the case. Granted, however, the impact the casino may have had on the Senior Center and American Legion bingo games is unfortunate. But life is a two-way street, and fortunately the casino's side of the street has certainly been paved in a broad fashion back into the town.

The casino employs 300 people and has a payroll in the vicinity of $6 million. How many families does that support and contribute to the well-being of? How do the tens of thousands of dollars that the tribe contributes to dozens of organizations in Payson stack up against the lost revenues of the two bingo games?

Yes, the negative impact is unfortunate, but the return to the community in many other ways outweighs the losses and must be considered. Keep in mind that the tribe is under no obligation to help the community. They do it out of a generous spirit of giving and to a great degree.

The conjecture was also made that if the casino puts up a hotel, tourists will not come into the town of Payson or know anything else exists here. That is absurd. When the Beeline Highway is finished next year, for better or worse, Payson will become a focal point of tourism and a destination point for many visitors who live within this state. I speculate that there will eventually be too much traffic and too many tourists and visitors and probably not enough restaurants or hotels to accommodate them.

Selling the naming rights to a public assembly facility is a standard business practice. Phoenix residents may have objected to taxes, but I never heard them accuse anyone of "selling out" to America West or Bank One. If the tribe were to formally propose naming the new facility the Mazatzal Arena, the Tonto Apache Arena, or anything else, and if the town accepted the offer, it would not be a "sellout" as was suggested. It would, however, be a definitive sign of good will on the part of the tribe towards the town, and a wise social and business move on their part.

Lastly, it was suggested that a contest be held to let the people of Payson choose a name. That might be a good idea if it could possibly raise the $250,000 needed to relocate and complete the new arena. But as of yet, a quarter of a million dollars hasn't dropped out of the sky, and no one has suggested a "name that arena" contest that would raise any money at all.

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