(from New York Times, February 19, 2013) Many universities and professional teams have been able to make huge financial gains by simply completing one small request. That small request is to name their stadium after one of their sponsors. This has become a big trend ever since stadium naming rights could be sold. Most may name them after an airline, a bank, a beverage supplier, or even a car manufacturer, but one university has taken an unconventional approach to their stadium name.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU), located in Boca Raton, Florida, made a deal to rename their stadium “GEO Group Stadium.” The pressing issue with this renaming is that the GEO Group is a private prison corporation. Paul Swangard, the managing director at the University of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, said “This is an example of great donor intent, terrible execution…Here’s a guy with strong ties to the university, who wants to make a difference, and is mixing his philanthropic interest with a marketing strategy that doesn’t make any sense.”
The GEO group is donating $6 million over a period of 12 years, making it the largest donation in FAU history. The money will finance athletic operations, the stadium, scholarships, and academic priorities. The GEO Group has been protested by “civil liberty and human rights groups and immigrant rights organizations. It has been cited by state and federal regulators and lost a series of high-profile lawsuits.” Bob Libal, the executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a social justice group that opposes private prison systems, stated, “It’s startling to see a stadium will be named after them. It’s like calling something Blackwater Stadium. This is a company whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents that really draw into question their ability to successfully manage a prison facility.”
FAU has weighed out the positives and negatives of this deal, and feel it is best for the university as financial dollars are needed.