WaMu & Wachovia Venues Up In Air

The people on Main Street have long felt the devastating effects of Wall Street’s financial crisis but with the takeover of Wachovia and Washington Mutual, the future of U.S. venues branded with the failed banks’ names are now up in the air.

Citigroup Inc. agreed to buy out Wachovia’s banking operations Sept. 29. At press time, the bank’s name was still on Wachovia Arena At Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, The Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia and the Wachovia Center in Charlotte, N.C.

The week before, JPMorgan Chase & Co. bought out Washington Mutual, leaving matters uncertain for WaMu Theatre in Seattle and WaMu Theater At Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The Los Angeles Times noted that just like when the Enron corporate scandal hit the fan in 2001 and Enron Field in Houston was quickly renamed Astros Field and then Minute Maid Park, a name change could be in the cards for the Wachovia- and WaMu-branded venues.

“I would think that would be the top order of the day to get that switched over,” Rob Vogel, president of Bonham Group, which helps broker sponsorships and naming rights deals, told the Times. “It’s in everyone’s best interests to get that rebranded as quickly as possible.”

Dick Sherwood, president of Front Row Marketing Services, told the Times if Citigroup changed the name of The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, it could cost around $1 million to install new signs, design new logos and issue new uniforms for employees.

The Times noted that a Citigroup spokeswoman said it was too early to speculate about the future of the Philadelphia arena, home to the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team and 76ers basketball team.

Barry Watkins, a spokesman for Madison Square Garden, said in a statement Sept. 26, “Today’s news will have no impact on the operation of the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden or on our customers. We empathize with our business partner and its employees and, at the appropriate time, will speak with the proper people regarding the future.”

As for England’s Manchester United soccer team, sponsored by the troubled American International Group that the U.S. government was forced to bail out of financial troubles, AIG spokesman Joe Norton told the Times that “nothing has changed” with the sponsorship deal.