BY Art Thiel 09:27AM 06/22/2011

Thiel: It’s the Clink, but it could be worse

Name changes rarely are greeted well when it comes to stadiums. Now it’s time for football and soccer fans to get used to the Clink.

Qwest Field, the home of the NFL Seahawks and MLS Sounders, is about to be renamed CenturyLink Field. / Wiki Commons

The fervent hope of the Seahawks and Sounders front offices is that their teams will be forever defense-minded.

Because fans and media now will have a grand time saying their teams’ opponents were thrown in the Clink.

The new nickname for the stadium where Paul Allen’s football and footie squads cavort is as inevitable as it is perfectly imperfect.

The imperfect part is as soon as a player gets busted for DUI or wife-beating or texting his nethers to the neighbors, it will be because he picked up so many bad habits from his time in the Clink.

The Twitterverse is alive with dismissal of the official name, CenturyLink Field, and adoption of Clink. Headline writers will be congenitally compelled to describe the first grim defeat by the Sounders or Seahawks as, “Clunk at the Clink.” The proximity to Puget Sound will provoke some awkward efforts with “Clink by the Drink.” We’ll stop now.

The nation’s third-largest telecommunications company is largely unheard of in these parts, and also tumbles clumsily off the tongue. But tongues begin re-training at a ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday, when one of Seattle’s most prominent buildings will switch phone service and show off a new logo to mark the semi-auspiciousness.

The previous sponsor, Qwest, which was purchased by CenturyLink in April, was at least a one-letter typo from a noun that had some nobility to it. But CenturyLink calls to mind . . . um, nothing.

Lest you think this will decay into a screed against corporate naming rights, no. That’s so over. The naming of sports palaces for banks, phones, airlines, beer, juice and underwear has been a fact of sporting life ever since teams felt the need to pay players $10 million a year and couldn’t sell enough $500 seats to pay the tab.

The reason for minimum dismay is simple: Every corporate dollar that goes to defray the stadium cost is one less dollar to come from the public trough, even if the team owners pocket it.

The anti-stadium crowd always insists each new sports palace be named Taxpayers Park for the principal funders of the construction. I never quite understood that, since nobody ever claimed that Sea-Tac Airport be named Taxpayers International, because public money built it and private companies profited from it, and users paid a share. One may quibble over percentages, but the principle is the same.

And please, no complaints that every stadium means more overcrowded classrooms. Every couple of years school districts give voters a chance to pay for Susie’s books. And even Qw . . . um the Clink’s construction was given statewide voter approval in 1997.

Sports stadiums have an unusually high public stewardship quotient to them, particularly regarding the cultural romance in which the activities therein are held. So the business of a business stenciled on a stadium always will be mildly offensive to some.

Even if fans didn’t know who Ebbets, Forbes and Crosley were, the long-dead lords of the yard were better than AmTelAirBank Stadium.

Even goofy personal names seemed better. Seattle’s ballpark from 1938 to 1970 was named after its owner, beer baron Emil Sick, and longtimers hereabouts say everyone got over Sicks’ Stadium jokes by World War II. And Sick’s moniker stands as a Greek god compared the acronym for a more recent Seattle public institution, the South Lake Union Trolley.

When the Mariners chose Safeco Insurance as the title sponsor for its park, there was some minor chafing, but it quickly became harmless and is now comfortable. The best that can be said for CenturyLink is that it carries no reminders of local corporate debacles, such as Washington Mutual, or Enron in Houston. And that it isn’t San Diego’s Petco Park (aka the Litterbox), or San Francisco’s one-time Monster Park, which speaks for itself as well as the spring weather on the Bay.

The all-time leader in wiseacre fodder has to be EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City (yet another name believed to be made cooler by dropping the space; take note, NewtGingrich).

A disposer of low-level nuclear waste, whatever that is (the bottom of a frat house refrigerator?), the company in 2006 took over naming rights to Delta Center, where the Sonics (also renamed) spent many an unpleasant winter night at the swift elbow of Karl Malone.

Nicknames submitted to local media outlets were Glow Bowl, Isotope, Dump, ChernoBowl, JazzMat, Big Bang, Tox Box, Power House, Hotspot, Fallout Shelter, Melta Center and Radium Stadium.

So, relatively speaking, the Clink isn’t so bad.

Next on the local horizon is the renovated Husky Stadium. School officials so far say the stadium name will not change. But the field could bear the name of a big corporate donor, or a big-bucks individual.

I’m kind of hoping the biggest donation comes from a Seattle guy who as a kid watched many Huskies games with his dad. Problem is, Paul Allen went to Washington State and he might choose to name it Cougars Field.


YourThoughts

  • guest

    >> the company in 2006 took over naming rights to Delta Center, where the Sonics (also renamed) spent many an unpleasant winter night at the swift elbow of Karl Malone. <<

    Art, you are the man.  Laugh out loud funny.

  • guest

    >> the company in 2006 took over naming rights to Delta Center, where the Sonics (also renamed) spent many an unpleasant winter night at the swift elbow of Karl Malone. <<

    Art, you are the man.  Laugh out loud funny.

  • Anonymous

    What’s to stop King County from designating the property either stadium sits on as parks named after someone?  Is there any legal reason the real estate the football stadium occupies can’t be called Steve Largent Park, nor the baseball stadium land be dedicated as Dave Niehaus Park?

    As my handle implies, I work in the radio business and do sports reports daily, and until either Safeco or CenturyLink pays ME naming rights, I will not refer to either stadium by their current names.  In fact, I’m seriously considering a promotion in which I “sell” the on-air naming rights to either venue to listeners for stories read in a designated sportscast, with the proceeds going to local Little League baseball or youth football organizations.  Let them sue me and we’ll see what a judge says about whether naming rights for any venue appy to members of the public who did not receive a dime as compensation in return.

  • RadioGuy

    What’s to stop King County from designating the property either stadium sits on as parks named after someone?  Is there any legal reason the real estate the football stadium occupies can’t be called Steve Largent Park, nor the baseball stadium land be dedicated as Dave Niehaus Park?

    As my handle implies, I work in the radio business and do sports reports daily, and until either Safeco or CenturyLink pays ME naming rights, I will not refer to either stadium by their current names.  In fact, I’m seriously considering a promotion in which I “sell” the on-air naming rights to either venue to listeners for stories read in a designated sportscast, with the proceeds going to local Little League baseball or youth football organizations.  Let them sue me and we’ll see what a judge says about whether naming rights for any venue appy to members of the public who did not receive a dime as compensation in return.