Boardwalk Hall is such a distinctive and famous name it needs no geographic qualifier. For 90 years it’s been the hall on the Boardwalk. Atlantic City Convention Center, though, is simply generic.
When corporations buy the naming rights to these facilities, the convention center will become more identifiable. But a company will pay more to have its name attached to iconic Boardwalk Hall.
Earning revenue from selling these marketing opportunities, as the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority is considering, is a good idea. We think it should happen and will happen, and we’re pretty confident state officials will go about it the right way.
There’s a general need for funding in Atlantic City, and in this case a specific one as well: The facilities provide tremendous value to businesses, visitors and residents, but while running a combined deficit of more than $15 million a year (normal for such public venues).
There is plenty of precedent nationwide (sports stadiums, performance centers) and in New Jersey as well. The nation’s first corporate sponsorship of a public facility occurred in Brooklawn, Camden County, when the local ShopRite donated $100,000 for naming rights to a school gymnasium.
A Mercer County arena has been getting $350,000 a year from Sun National Bank since 2009. The biggest naming rights score lately was $18 million last fall to create the new RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center at Rutgers University and a sports medicine program within.
Any naming-rights money for the Atlantic City facilities would be welcome, of course, but the amounts are likely to be significant. The city draws millions of visitors a year, the venues are repeatedly the centers of attraction, and if the CRDA can get it right this time, Boardwalk Hall should be the site of a nationally televised New Year’s Eve concert.
The state authority, like any other governmental entity, is obligated by N.J. law to maximize the amount received for the naming rights by advertising for bids and contracting with the best bidder (highest in this case), according to an article by Hill Wallack, one of the state’s major law firms. Naming rights are considered a marketing concession, so the usual laws about public concessions apply. And the N.J. Supreme Court already has ruled that public contract law applies even though there is an acquisition rather than expenditure of public funds.
The marketing use of a facility’s name also is positive for the image of the facility in the modern world. It signals that the place has stature and value, not just in the bottom-line view of a corporation but to the general public. That plus the revenue makes this another good CRDA idea.