It's 2014, right? Don't we deserve to know as much information about a particular subject as possible? And just as importantly, don't we deserve to know it right now? Well not so fast if you're interested in the particulars of the Portland Timbers' new stadium naming rights deal with Providence Health & Services. For three years the Timbers kept the financial figures redacted in their deal with Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors and they intend to do the same with the new fifteen-year contract with Providence.
According to Timbers' COO Mike Golub in a February 12 Oregonian article by Allan Brettman:
"It's our collective wish it remain a private piece of information. It would inhibit our ability to do business if this was publicly known. I think it behooves private business of any type for private information to remain private.
"Our fans our intensely interested about everything Timbers and that's great. Most supporters would say good community and business sponsorships with iconic companies like Providence ultimately translate to the resources we put onto the field, which is good for everybody."
Golub is dead on with his assessment of Timbers fans, and the fact that this particular deal comes with the added interest level of a health care provider signing on to feature in the stadium's name makes this announcement even more newsworthy than the Jeld-Wen press conference three years ago. It would be difficult to argue with the Timbers' track record of major sponsorships from mostly Oregon- or Northwest-based companies, including Alaska Airlines, Burgerville, Jeld-Wen, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Portland General Electric. But does that arsenal of local heavy hitters mean the club is not obligated to share its financial details with the public when playing in a city-owned stadium?
It's a bit more complicated than just releasing all the relevant information for public consumption, and Brettman has tackled the whole story of stadium naming rights in Portland in a much more in depth manner than we can in this space. But the biggest question worth asking is why the Timbers would be a competitive disadvantage, either locally with future potential sponsors, or compared with other clubs in the league, when some of those other clubs release the terms of their stadium deals? Even a cursory search yields fairly specific numbers from more than a few MLS teams:
- Chicago Fire: Toyota - 10 years, $7.5-$10 million
- Colorado Rapids: Dick's Sporting Goods - 20 years, $40 million
- Houston Dynamo: BBVA Compass - 10 years, $20 million
- New England Revolution: Gillette Stadium - 15 years, $240 million*
- Philadelphia Union: PPL Corporation - 11 years, $20 million
- Real Salt Lake: Rio Tinto - 15 years, $30 million
- Seattle Sounders: CenturyLink - 15-20 years, $75-100 million*
- Toronto FC: Bank of Montreal - 10 years, $27 million
* The combination of NFL and MLS accounts for such a huge disparity in the dollar amount per year for New England and Seattle
Several clubs do not have sponsored stadium names or have names that incorporate the club's existing ownership structure, like Red Bull Arena in New York or Saputo Stadium in Montreal.
Of course circumstances are different in each market, so this is by no means a challenge for the Timbers to answer. It just seems curious that other clubs that are successful on the field, at the box office and on the bottom line are able to reveal the value of their stadium sponsorships while Portland claims it could be detrimental to future business relationships and even by implication, hurt the team on the field.
Ignoring for a moment the implications of a health care provider sponsoring the stadium, which has been a hang up for a number of folks, do you think the Timbers owe it to the city and their fans to reveal sponsorship figures? Does the fact that the stadium is city-owned make a difference? Or is private business entitled to privacy?