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Tacoma Dome naming rights: Potential suitor in own back yard?

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on June 19, 2013 at 11:39 am |
June 20, 2013 11:17 am

As we wrote about in today’s newspaper, the City of Tacoma is now soliciting bids for selling the naming rights to the Tacoma Dome.

The GEO Dome, anyone?!
The GEO Dome, anyone?!

The effort is part of a strategy to draw new revenues from corporate sponsorships being sought for both the T-Dome and the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center.  Both venues are meant to be self-sufficient enterprises, but each still garners subsidies from the city’s General Fund.

The city has sent its formal request for proposals to nine consulting and marketing firms. They include:  Premier Partnerships of Santa Monica, CA;  Legends Sales & Marketing of Plano, TX; Gemini Sports Group of Phoenix, AZ; Team Services of Rockville, MD;  CAA Sports of Los Angeles, CA:  Front Row Marketing of Philadelphia, PA: Superlative Group of Cleveland, OH; Rooney Sports and Entertainment of Houston, PA: and Property Consulting Group of Chicago, IL.

Any potential bidder has until July 16 to submit a sealed proposal to the city.  Once a consulting firm is hired,  its consultants will be expected to find a suitor willing to buy the rights to name the Dome.

The news allows us to reprise a blog post from earlier this year, when we speculated  – given unexpected news out of Florida — whether a potential naming rights suitor may already be operating in the T-Dome’s back yard.

GEO Group logoThe GEO Group — one of the largest private prison contractors on the planet — has owned and operated the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma’s Tideflats since 2005.  

GEO recently got into the naming rights business in Florida, where it’s corporate headquarters are based.  The company paid $6 million over 12 years for the exclusive naming rights to Florida Atlantic University’s football stadium – a deal that immediately drew protests.  (After the deal was struck, one student entrepreneur even started selling shirts that dubbed the stadium, “Olwcatraz,” a witty take on GEO’s business model and FAU’s team mascot, the Owls.) 

Following the public outcry, the private prison contractor withdrew its donation and gave up the naming rights to the stadium.

Under its current contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detaining thousands of undocumented immigrants at the Tacoma detention facility,  GEO easily pulls in enough revenue locally — between $43.4 million and $52.5 million per year — to cover what could be a lucrative naming rights deal with the City of Tacoma.  

And so, we’re left to wonder: Could The GEO Dome be in the offing?!

Or, while we’re speculating wildly about potential suitors with local ties, how about the State Farm Dome? Or, The Roca Dome? The Tacoma Screw Dome,  maybe?

The city’s failed moratorium stunt to halt a ubiquitous big box retailer’s plans for the Elks property in Central Tacoma likely scotches any chance for The Wal-Mart Dome. Ditto for The Clear Channel Dome, for that matter.

But, given Tacoma’s support of the LeMay car museum, might there be an auto sponsor willing to pony up for The Chrome Dome?

Of course, given Tacoma’s history with T-Dome naming sensitivities — a public outcry emerged 10 years ago when Comcast proposed to drop “Tacoma” from the Dome’s name — any drastic name change could be a challenge.

Still, I’ve sent an email to The GEO Group’s executive spokesman seeking comment just in case.  I’ll be sure to update this post should I receive a response. Stay tuned…

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