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Arena's name another P.R. headache for Mizzou

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  • Arena's name another P.R. headache for Mizzou


    Arena's name another P.R. headache for Mizzou

    By Scott Charton
    Associated Press

    COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A decision by Wal-Mart heirs to name the University of Missouri's new basketball arena after their 22-year-old daughter who never attended the school is drawing criticism from fans, students and alumni.

    "It was bought, not earned. The ego and hubris it takes to buy the biggest university building you can and name it after your daughter is astounding," said Chris Cary, who co-founded the Nashville, Tenn., alumni chapter. "It's dad buying the biggest dollhouse."

    One of Missouri's most prominent public venues will be known as Paige Sports Arena, after the middle name of Elizabeth Paige Laurie, a student at the University of Southern California.

    She is the only daughter of billionaires Bill and Nancy Laurie, Columbia residents who liquidated $25 million in Wal-Mart stock to jump-start construction of the $75 million home of the Missouri Tigers, which is to open this fall.

    The naming decision has online fan message boards aglow with disdain, and sports call-in shows are airing critical comments. St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz called the name "tacky."

    Paige Laurie's out-of-state enrollment upset Mark Ziegler, a leader of the Seattle-area Missouri alumni chapter.

    "I'm sure she is a wonderful girl, but we shouldn't name buildings at MU after 22-year-old people who didn't choose to attend there, just because they are the daughter of wealthy donors," Ziegler said.

    Last week's arena naming announcement included no comment from Paige Laurie, and she declined requests from The Associated Press for an interview. So did her parents.

    The naming controversy is another public relations headache for Missouri, where the men's basketball team is under NCAA investigation. Picked as high as fifth in preseason polls, Missouri finished 16-14, missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years and lost a first-round NIT game by one point.

    In a statement, Bill and Nancy Laurie said: "As supporters of education and athletics, we are proud of our association with the University of Missouri. As parents, we are very proud of our daughter, Paige. So we could not be happier that the university would combine those two important parts of our lives in naming this new facility the Paige Sports Arena."

    The university actually had no legal say in the matter, because the school signed away naming rights to the Lauries as a condition of receiving the money.

    "Getting the money in advance is nirvana in this business, and it leads to a lot of concessions and that is happening a lot," said Professor Dennis Howard, an expert on arena financing at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center.

    The deal guarantees the Lauries a 24-seat luxury suite at center court, including catering, a kitchen and bathroom, as well as six tickets of their choice for any arena event. A second, standard suite is at their disposal for eight events annually.

    The Lauries also have control or influence over key venue decisions for as long as Missouri uses the structure as a sports arena, probably decades.

    For example, they can bar arena advertising or sponsorships by any competitors to their family business interests -- notably Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. Nancy Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, co-founder of Wal-Mart.

    "Who isn't a competitor for Wal-Mart these days?" asked Howard, the professor.

    Analysts who reviewed the Missouri contract at the AP's request said it qualifies as the second-costliest naming rights deal in college sports -- and the first time an honoree's first or middle name alone has been permanently attached to a major sports venue rather than the donors' or honoree's last name.

    The most expensive naming rights deal was $40 million paid by Save Mart Supermarkets for 23 years of branding at the multipurpose arena for California State University, Fresno.

    "You might say it's a new page -- pardon the pun -- in the world of naming rights," said Don Hinchley, vice president of The Bonham Group, a Denver-based sports and entertainment marketing company.

    It's also breaking tradition at Missouri, where all of the nearly 90 named campus buildings use an honoree's last name, according to school records. Some Missouri supporters said they wouldn't be so upset if the arena carried the Lauries' family name.

    "If they donate their own money, name it for the Lauries. With a gift that size, they should have that right," said sophomore Christine Chan.

    Public money comprises the largest portion of the arena financing, through $35 million in state revenue bonds. University officials say, however, that the project wouldn't have gotten rolling without the Lauries' cash infusion.

    San Francisco sports marketing executive David Wilkinson, who negotiated the Fresno contract, said after reviewing the Missouri terms at the AP's request that the school "got a very sweet deal."

    "People should not be upset with calling it Paige whatever, because I bet it would get really touchy if the name was a commercial enterprise," Wilkinson said.

    But Paige is the name of a Laurie business; the family owns Paige Sports Entertainment, with holdings including the St. Louis Blues professional hockey team and its home venue, Savvis Center.

    Putting the name Paige on the Missouri arena "can only build recognition for what is not a widely known business name," said Jim Andrews, editorial director of IEG Sponsorship Report, a Chicago-based newsletter tracking corporate sponsorships.

    Analysts said increased visibility could benefit future Laurie ventures. For example, Laurie could follow the example of his brother-in-law, Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, and launch a regional television sports network under the Paige corporate umbrella.

    "It is certainly not purely coincidental that the name is the same as the name of his company," Andrews said.

  • #2
    hopefully the alumni and students keep up the pressure - that name is just plain ridiculous period.

    han solo


    • #3
      The naming decision has online fan message boards aglow with disdain, and sports call-in shows are airing critical comments. St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz called the name "tacky."

      I thought the PB was dead?

      Official Lounge Sponsor of Lou Brock (really) and Ryan Franklin (really)*

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      • #4
        Originally posted by steveInebriated@Mar 26 2004, 07:50 PM
        The naming decision has online fan message boards aglow with disdain, and sports call-in shows are airing critical comments. St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz called the name "tacky."

        I thought the PB was dead?
        Lump it, steve, lump it...

        "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
        Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
        -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy


        • #5
          I actually saw something about this on the Fox News scroll tonight.