SBJ/April 10 - 16, 2006/This Weeks News

Mets ask $10M a year to name new ballpark

The New York Mets are seeking a naming-rights deal worth more than $10 million a year for their new ballpark set to open in 2009, a deal that would be record-setting for a baseball-only facility.

The design of the 45,000-seat ballpark was
inspired by Ebbets Field.
The club, seeking a deal by this fall, has a mind-set similar in its aggressiveness to that of the New York Jets and Giants, as the New York metropolitan area makes a relatively late but full-throttle entry into the world of modern stadium economics. The NFL clubs are eyeing a $20 million a year naming-rights deal for their combined stadium planned for the Meadowlands.

The Mets last week announced their plans for a 45,000-seat, Ebbets Field-inspired ballpark to be built on team-owned land adjacent to their current Shea Stadium home in Queens.

“At $10 million [a year for naming rights], we’re still well within the realm of reality,” said Jeff Wilpon, Mets chief operating officer. “We’re in the No. 1 media market, and we’re providing a very unique opportunity. Playing 162 games, we can deliver just a whole lot of impressions, and since it looks like the Yankees are going to keep the Yankee Stadium name for their new place [also set to open in 2009], we’re sort of standing alone in this.”

Wilpon said part of the motivation for landing a naming-rights deal sooner rather than later is to give the winning company exposure during the ballpark’s construction phase. “The ballpark is going up within direct eyeshot of everyone who comes to Shea the next three seasons,” Wilpon said. “That’s a huge marketing platform right there. Ideally, we’ll get the new name up on the [construction] site fence.”

The Houston Astros hold the top mark for naming-rights deals at MLB-only facilities with their $6 million a year deal with Minute Maid.

The Mets have not yet selected an agency to help broker a naming-rights contract. Industry executives expressed little doubt the Mets will be able to land a huge deal, though, even as they compete with the Jets and Giants, as well as the New Jersey Devils and Nets, which also have new facilities under development.

“In their market, eight figures is by no means out of the question,” said Tony Schiller, a partner with Paragon Marketing Group, which secured Continental Airlines as the naming-rights sponsor for the Nets’ and Devils’ current shared home.

Beyond naming rights, the forthcoming ballpark will provide other major elements of economic transformation for the Mets. Now playing under one of the worst facility leases in baseball, the club receives less than $800,000 a year in parking revenue and must share 50 percent of the revenue from Shea Stadium’s outmoded luxury boxes with the city. In addition, in a nod to yesteryear baseball economics in which TV was seen as a threat to gate attendance, the lease still taxes the Mets’ income from local cable TV telecasts.

The Mets expect to see attendance in the new ballpark stabilize at a little more than 3 million a season. In 44 years of play, the Mets have surpassed 3 million in reported attendance twice, with a third occurrence projected by the team for this season. Before 1992, however, NL clubs typically listed attendance as actual turnstile counts instead of the current industry standard of tickets distributed.

The increased revenue from a new ballpark would help support an annual debt service of roughly $35 million as the Mets will pay for most of the project, supplying $550 million. City and state sources will kick in another $165 million for infrastructure.

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