Stadium Naming Rights? Don’t Get Me Started!
Our sports trivia the last couple of mornings has discussed baseball stadiums, and the question has come up about the first stadium named for a business or corporation. Well, you should know better to get me started on the history of sports stadiums, because I'll blow the whole day in research mode. Just when I thought I had the answer, I found Wikipedia research that quotes Peter Nash's book Boston's Royal Rooters: "Located in the Fenway section of the city, the land was owned by the Taylor family (John Taylor, owner of the Red Sox) who, according to writer Dan Shaughnessy, named the park to promote their company, the Fenway Realty Company."
http://books.google.com/books?id=Fa4xVOCgtt4C&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false (Great pictures on this website page!)
So while the business didn't actually pay for the rights to see Fenway in lights, that's the oldest reference to a stadium named for a business I have FOR NOW. I have books at home with EVERY stadium ever used by professional baseball teams; there could be other examples that preclude 1912. That sounds like a whole weekend research event. Break out the wine.
While we're researching baseball stadiums, let me point you to a wonderful website that has quite an extensive background of baseball ballparks, new and old, complete with a lot of pictures. It's as good as there is, and it helped me discover that the first baseball team to receive money specifically for their stadium's name was the Colorado Rockies (Coors Field, 1995).
But it's not the first time a stadium name has gone for money. According to Wilipedia, the Buffalo Bills did a deal: "In 1972, Rich Products signed a 25-year, $1.5 million deal, by which the venue would be called "Rich Stadium"; this is one of the earliest examples of the sale of naming rights in North American sports."
That Wikipedia Naming Rights website also tells the story of the naming of Busch Stadium in St. Louis, which answers the question, Which came first: the ballpark or the beer?