Saturday, July 01, 2000
Great American to name ballpark
Two Lindner-owned companies near deal
By Cliff Peale
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Great American Field? In a deal between two companies run by Carl Lindner Jr., Great American Insurance Co. will buy naming rights to the new Cincinnati Reds ballpark to open in 2003.
Sources familiar with the talks said Friday that Great American was closing in on a deal that would pay the Reds about $75 million over 30 years for naming rights.
The deal is set to be announced next weekend when the Reds will host the Cleveland Indians. In one step, it will solidify the Reds' finances and give Great American Insurance a brand identity used in sportscasts around the country.
The team will use the name to market Reds baseball as traditional family entertainment, one source close to the deal said.
It's a Great American sport, it's a Great American product, it's a Great American game, the source said.
Reds chief operating officer John Allen and Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus did not return phone calls for comment.
Commissioner John Dowlin said he was unaware of any deal with Great American. In its lease with the Reds, the county gave the team authority to negotiate a naming-rights deal, he said.
MOST PAY MORE
Most sponsors are paying between $3 million and $4 million a year for full naming rights, said Dean Bonham, chairman of the Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports marketing and consulting firm. |
The Houston energy company Enron Corp., for example, paid $100 million for 30 years for naming rights at the Astros' ballpark that opened this year.
In Cincinnati, utility company Cinergy Corp. paid $6 million several years ago to put its name on the former Riverfront Stadium for five years, even though it knew the stadium eventually would be demolished.
Mr. Lindner's office coordinated the deal between the insurance company that is at the core of the $12 billion financial empire he controls and the baseball team he purchased last year.
I mean, who's the Reds and who's Great American? Mr. Dowlin said.
Zach Graham, a Westwood resident, said the name had a catchy ring to it ... but why does it always have to be named after him (Mr. Lindner)?
Helena Thomas, owner of the baseball trading card store, Skywalk Baseball on Vine Street downtown, said she would rather see Great American Field up on a sign than Cinergy Field or Cincinnati Water Works.
It's a unique name, and no one from out of town will associate it with Carl Lindner. In town, sure, it's gonna be people saying, "Carl's taking over,' but outside Cincinnati, it's really going to be positive.
The Reds will use some of the money to make three $10 million payments to Hamilton County to help fund construction of the ballpark at Main Street and a new Second Street.
The first of those payments is due in August.
Counting the costs to tear down Cinergy Field, the total cost for the ballpark will be about $330 million.
The Reds already have collected more than $1 million each from six companies who leased Found ers Suites in the new ballpark. Those companies include Delta/Comair, AK Steel and Clear Channel Communications.
The Reds also have collected $25,000 each from 57 companies who reserved other luxury boxes, including the Enquirer.
Construction will start this fall once the Reds' season ends.
Mr. Lindner operates his businesses through the American Financial Group parent company. The Great American Insurance unit sells mostly specialty lines, ranging from non-standard auto insurance to policies for executive liability.
Like many insurance companies, it has suffered lately from soft prices and higher-than-expected claims. Thursday, American Financial said second-quarter earnings would be below Wall Street expectations.
The Reds also have suffered from difficult financial times in recent years as attendance declined. But the team's success last year has sparked increased ticket sales that already have topped 2 million this season.
James Pilcher contributed to this report.
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