Sunday, March 6, 2011

Corporate Naming Rights Coming To Brooklyn Bridge Park?


Picture a Brooklyn Bridge Park where you can visit Pampers Playground, then walk along the Target Esplanade past Ikea soccer fields to the Burger King Picnic Area.

In what would be a bold leap from how the city does business at its 29,000 other acres of parkland, officials are considering pawning off naming rights to various attractions inside the cash-strapped, 85-acre waterfront project, according to the New York Post.

The inspiration for the commercial sponsorship comes from Chicago’s Millennium Park, which opened to rave reviews in 2004, and saw the private sector pick up $220 million of its $490 million tab.

The massive downtown Chicago park is now flooded with corporate-sponsored attractions, including AT&T Plaza, Chase Promenade and the Frank Gehry-designed BP Bridge.

Edward Uhlir, Millennium Park’s executive director, said the green space would’ve been "ordinary and bland" – and half of it likely not built — if naming rights weren’t sold to a dozen sponsors.

"It’s been a successful formula that will be used for other parks in Chicago," he said.

That formula is one of nine plans now being studied as an alternative to building more high-rise condos at the $354 million Brooklyn Bridge Park to offset an anticipated $16.1 million annual maintenance budget.

While many events in city parks are corporate-sponsored, no city park or sections of parks have ever been named after corporations.

Judi Francis, who heads a grassroots group fighting to keep condos out of the park, doesn’t like the corporate-sponsor model any better.

"Why does Brooklyn have to sell its soul so that struggling businesses can improve their image?" Francis said.

About $4 million of the maintenance budget is to maintain the park’s six piers, and a city-commissioned study released last week suggested this amount could be raised through naming-rights sponsorships — although further studies are needed.

The report, by Bay Area Economics, also says the city might need to redesign part of the park plan – for instance, subbing a "signature sports facility" for yet-to-be-built "outdoor multi-use fields" to "enhance" sponsorship potential.

Although most of Millennium Park is branded with naming rights, Uhlir said "it was done tastefully." That park, he said, allows sponsors modest signage showcasing their names – but no corporate logos and fonts or gaudy billboards.

"When you go to our McDonald’s Cycle Center you won’t see Golden Arches," Uhlir said.

Regina Myer, president of the city’s Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp., said that while naming rights for certain park features – such as playgrounds, recreational piers and walkways – are being explored, "the expectation is" that corporate sponsors won’t get the chance to replace the historic bridge as the park’s name.

City officials said they are currently not exploring naming rights being used in other Big Apple parks.

Read More:

B'klyn plan gives new meaning to 'corporate park'
New York Post - March 6, 2011 - By Rich Calder

A Walk In The Park - February 22, 2011

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