SBD/February 26, 2013/Facilities

FAU President To Meet With Students On Stadium Name After Campus Protests

About 100 students protested the school's naming-rights deal with GEO Group
Florida Atlantic Univ. President Mary Jane Saunders has "agreed to meet Friday with students upset about a decision to name the football stadium after a prison operator," according to Scott Travis of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. About 100 students yesterday "protested FAU’s decision last week to name the facility the GEO Group Stadium." Saunders said that she will "hold a public meeting at noon Friday in the recruiting room of the stadium to discuss the concerns." Saunders said that she "didn’t anticipate the gift would be controversial" since GEO Group is "publicly traded and has had strong ties to FAU." Student protestors "arrived on the FAU lawn" yesterday morning "holding up signs reading, 'Profit from Pain is Inhumane,' and 'GEO: Find Another University.'" They then "moved into the president’s office, where Saunders agreed to the Friday meeting." But Saunders "showed no signs of declining GEO’s gift, which she said will be used for scholarships and to help pay off the debt of the $70 million stadium." Saunders: “This is a tough economic time. I don’t think we’ll ever be at a point where we can get all of our social issues perfect" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/26). Saunders was "less effusive" than she had been last week about the GEO Group "but also defended" the company. Saunders: "I don't know everything about this company" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/26). In Ft. Lauderdale, Michael Mayo asks, "How much grief, ridicule and bad publicity is $6 million really worth?" It "doesn't seem FAU or Saunders has fully thought out the downside to what seemed like easy money just last week." Saunders yesterday "handled herself well," but FAU has "fumbled on this deal." The situation has the "potential to turn into a long and damaging firestorm" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/26).

HOOT WITH THE OWLS: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Don Muret reports FAU has “signed a short-term marketing deal with Sunrise Sports & Entertainment to book events" at Geo Group Stadium. The deal includes providing NHL Panthers parent company Sunrise Sports with “the opportunity to sell naming rights for FAU Arena, a 5,000-seat arena that opened” in ’84. The school additionally receives "brand exposure at BB&T Center on digital signs, in-game advertising through the Panthers’ media partners, concourse displays and discounted tickets for students available one hour before every hockey game.” SSE President & COO Michael Yormark said that the group is “paid a monthly fee plus commission if it sells naming rights for FAU Arena.” The stadium opened in October '11, but FAU AD Patrick Chun said that the venue has "seen minimal use beyond the Owls’ five home football games a year.” Yormark said that the “controversy over the Geo Group Stadium agreement should not affect Sunrise Sports’ marketing of the building” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/25 issue).
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