Brands could save parks

Pepsi Central Park or eBay Poplar Creek Golf Course may sound like far-fetched names, but officials say company branding rights could turn out to be a savior for San Mateo during trying financial times.

San Mateo’s Parks and Recreation Department is considering giving companies naming rights to its facilities, a concept typically only used in big cities and at sports stadiums. The idea was one of a few ways the department revealed this week to raise revenue as the city faces fewer tax dollars mixed with an increased demand from residents for services, officials said.

The idea is still in its infancy stages, San Mateo Parks and Recreation Director Sheila Canzian said. Before proceeding with any plans, officials need to figure out whether a small city like San Mateo can garner the same sort of advertiser interest given to major facilities, such as San Francisco’s AT&T Park, Canzian said. A special consulting team can actually visit a site to estimate how much an advertiser would be willing to pay to secure its naming rights.

“We don’t really know” how much we could earn from these sites, Canzian said. “I might think the Japanese Tea Garden [in Central Park] is worth $100,000 and somebody else might say, ‘Yeah, right, in your dreams.’”

Cindy Collins, who visits San Mateo parks regularly with her three sons, said the idea could help differentiate San Mateo parks  from the scores of similar Peninsula open spaces with relatively unknown names. The problem that could arise, she said, would be if parks change sponsors at a similar rate as the San Francisco Giants and 49ers have for their stadiums. Monster Cable in 2004 inked a four-year deal with San Francisco worth $6 million, which has expired for what everyone knows as Candlestick Park, and AT&T has a 24-year deal with the Giants worth $50 million. The Giants’ stadium has also had three names in nine years.

“At first it’d be kind of fun because it’d be unique,” Collins said. “But after a while it’d be just like Monster Park; it will turn into the whatever-it’s-called-that-week park.”

Mike Germano, who lives near Beresford Park, said the naming rights idea was fine as long as it does not become inappropriate or go overboard.

“Some people have strong ideas that things should maintain their own identity over time,” Germano said.

<a href="mailto:mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com" target="_blank">mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

  • 12 Neighborhood parks
  • 10 Larger community parks
  • 6 Recreation and community centers
  • 2 Pools
  • 3 Regional parks
  • 1 Golf course (Poplar Creek)

Source: San Mateo Parks and Recreation Department

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