BY: JOHN MCGRATH
Seattle Seahawks Qwest Field:
What a rare mood I’m in: Waxing nostalgic over the gimmicky misspelled name of a corporation that is merging with the gimmicky piggybacked name of another corporation.
Reports of the possible transformation of Qwest Field into CenturyLink Field trouble me, because I had gotten used to calling the former Seahawks Stadium “Qwest Field.” It’s taken a couple of years, but with the help of repetition and a reliable delete key, I no longer second-guess myself when typing “Qwest” instead of “Quest.”
The delete key, come to think about it, is used when I refer to the Seahawks’ “qwest for the playoffs.” How did I develop that habit? A good qwestion.
Anyway, there was a familiarity with Qwest Field that never was achieved with the old, corporately sponsored name of the Huskies’ basketball arena. “Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion” was less a title for a basketball venue than a run-on sentence.
The radio-update guys were fond of abbreviating that mouthful to “B of A” – as in: “The Huskies return tonight to face Oregon at the B of A” – but that was even more confusing, because I always thought I heard, “the Huskies return tonight to face Oregon at the Be Oy Vey.”
A few months ago, the University of Washington sold sponsorship rights for the arena to Alaska Airlines. If I ever hear a radio update about the Huskies returning to A.A., I’ll really be confused.
Sorry, Alaska Airlines. I’m sure UW appreciates your business, but Hec Edmundson Pavilion works just fine. Besides, while sponsors sign contracts that expire, Clarence “Hec” Edmundson isn’t going anywhere.
The basketball coach credited with inventing the hands-together circle of team unity – practiced to this day – went wherever he was going in 1964.
It always will be Hec Edmundson Pavilion, just as Qwest Field always will be, well, this is where the plot thickens. CenturyLink’s $22 billion merger with Qwest was approved by the FCC last Friday and is scheduled to close (omen alert!) on April Fool’s Day. According to a CenturyLink statement published by the World-Herald of Omaha, Neb. – home of an indoor arena known as Qwest Center Omaha – “all Qwest properties will adopt the CenturyLink name.”
Sounds inevitable, doesn’t it? “All Qwest properties will adopt the CenturyLink name.” Had the statement been modified with some business-flack speak – “while the long-term goal is to transition Qwest properties into a singular brand identifiable with CenturyLink’s corporate family, the more immediate focus is to establish a synergy consistent with the vision of our valued target audience – the public – whose convenience during these times of rapidly shifting global dynamics is our most important task” – there would’ve been some wiggle room.
Still, the Seahawks haven’t been told that Qwest Field awaits a name change, and it should be noted that while corporate mergers often affect sports-stadium sponsorship deals, this is not always the case.
Liberty Mutual acquired Safeco Insurance in 2008 and, as the buyer in the transaction, Liberty Mutual had the freedom to rename Safeco Field “Liberty Mutual Park,” or – borrowing UW’s cue – “Liberty Mutual Field at Safeco Pavilion.”
But Safeco Field, last time we checked, remains the home of the baseball team that almost never reaches home. (The Mariners sold the ballpark’s naming rights to Safeco Insurance in 1999, for what was believed to be $40 million over 20 years. By 2019, in other words, a simple naming-rights sponsorship, sustained for two decades, will have enabled the organization to pay off all but $8 million of Carlos Silva’s contract.)
As for any notions of CenturyLink Field, here’s an idea: Let’s all just say no. If the taxpayers of Washington were able to build a palace for the Seahawks and Sounders by contributing $300 million to the stadium’s $430 million construction budget, the taxpayers of Washington should have a voice in what to call it.
I had no issues with the original name. Seahawks Stadium didn’t exactly brim with imagination, but there was a kind of no-nonsense, we-don’t-need-any-focus-group-suggestions ring to it.
In 2004, when Qwest Communications agreed to pay an average of $2.1 million annually for 10 years of naming rights for the stadium, I suspected the overwhelming preference of fans was to keep calling it Seahawks Stadium.
Qwest Field? It would be a name relegated to formal business documents. Who would get used to calling a stadium that? Who’d get used to spelling a word in which a “Q” is followed by a “W”?
But the stadium name with the silly spelling has grown on me. It’s got an identity so vivid, even the downtown Seattle cab drivers understand “Qwest Field,” especially if you add: “For the football game, where all the traffic is. Three blocks away is close enough.”
CenturyLink sounds like a industrial company that manufactures ugly fences separating old tires and crab grass from the sidewalk. Then I see those words cramped together with the capital letter in the middle – CenturyLink – and I need some space.
If CenturyLink’s acquisition of Qwest means a renaming of all Qwest properties, let’s not acknowledge the renaming of the taxpayer-built property in Seattle.
Let’s make this our qw, er, quest.