Anyone remember Enron Field?
The corporation that held the naming rights to the stadium that housed the Houston Astros baseball team eventually had to withdraw its name from a 30-year stadium naming rights deal, as the company plunged into bankruptcy and controversy because of accounting fraud charges.
While the infamous Enron scandal was never mentioned by name at council June 28, it was clear North Battleford councillors and administration wanted to be prepared in case they had to deal with a situation where any of the Credit Union CU Plex's sponsors went bankrupt, refused to honour their commitments or were thrown in jail.
To that end, the city has adopted a Recreation and Cultural Facilities Sponsorship Funding Policy. According to a memo from City Manager Jim Toye dated June 24, the policy is designed "to provide the committee a guideline of the city's requirements and responsibilities in the matter and to ensure consistency in sponsorship agreements."
The main focus of the policy was on sponsorship for the Credit Union CU Plex and its wide range of sponsorships and naming rights. The new policy identifies sponsorship levels, appropriate recognition of sponsorship and the responsibilities of the City and sponsor pertaining to the fundraising initiative by the CU Plex fundraising committee in contractual agreements.
But the main item councillors talked about was what the city could do to make sure sponsors lived up to their own responsibilities under the policy.
Among the provisions: naming rights or signage will be withdrawn where a sponsor who has agreed to provide funding over a time period ceases to continue with their payments. Also, the City would reserve the right to withdraw if the sponsor is convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Councillor Don Buglas wanted a further explanation about that provision. Toye responded there would be some subjectivity with respect to that right to withdraw.
He noted that with something like naming rights to the water slide, if the sponsor had been convicted of a violent offence involving children, for example, the city would be able to withdraw sponsorship in that instance. However, with other less serious offences such as a driving conviction, that might not quite as serious a situation to remove a sponsorship.
Such a determination on withdrawing sponsorship would rest not with the fundraising committee, but with city council, Toye explained. "It would have to be a fairly significant event," he said, for sponsorship to be withdrawn.
Buglas also wondered about whether there could be provision in the bylaw if a major sponsor did something "unbecoming to the community at large." He wanted some mechanism for council to be able to review the sponsorship in such an instance.
"There have been scenarios that have occurred where things have happened," Buglas said, where the sponsor had left the community because of something that had gone on.
Councillor Ron Crush said he appreciated what Buglas was saying but believed his suggestion would take the city into a "grey area," and believed the city might be subject to civil litigation by "making that moral judgement."
Tying the right to withdraw sponsorship to the Criminal Code of Canada provisions "protects us legally," said Crush.
Most of what was outlined in the policy with respect to sponsorship levels was already announced publicly by the fundraising committee during their official Raise the Roof launch June 10. Four levels of sponsorship are available. Those include: Friends, who provide amounts in the $500 to $5000 range; Supporters, who provide $10,000 to $50,000; Members, who $100,000 to $250,000; and Founders, who contribute $500,000 and up for naming rights, with the price tag being $750,000 to obtain naming rights for the lifetime of the facility.
Councillor Trent Houk objected to the whole idea of awarding naming rights for the lifetime of a facility. He was concerned corporations who wanted to move into the community 20 years down the road might be shut out of making contributions to the CU Plex.
Toye noted there were several instances already in the city of naming rights being awarded for the life of a facility, pointing to Beaver Lions Stadium as one example.
Concern over the lifetime naming rights led Houk to cast the lone "no" vote against adopting the sponsorship funding policy, which was passed and adopted with the votes of the rest of council.