Odds & Ends: Springsteen, George Jones and ‘Captive’ Corporate Naming

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band to play a U.K. venue weeks before it opens, more special guests announced for George Jones’ final Nashville concert and a private prison company will slap its name on a Florida university’s football stadium.

Photo: Erik Schultz
Rose Garden Arena, Portland, Ore.

Bruce Springsteen isn’t a stranger to being the first act to play a new venue.  Back in 1999 during the E Street Band’s reunion tour, Springsteen christened Los Angeles’ Staples Center with a four-night stand.  Decades earlier, Springsteen & Co. opened a venue on The Boss’ New Jersey home turf with a six-night run at the then brand new Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford.

But it’s not often that a new venue hosts a concert more than a month before the building is scheduled to open.  That’s the case in Leeds, England, where the new Leeds Arena isn’t scheduled to open for business until September.

But that was before Springsteen came a callin’.  Up until this week, the first concert scheduled for the 13,500 capacity venue was Elton John’s Sept. 4 gig.  Now the arena will have one night of music nearly six weeks before September when Springsteen plays the building July 24.

Evidently, Springsteen made a special request to play the Leeds Arena, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post which reported that “the team at the venue decided to pull out all the stops to arrange a one-off ‘pre-opening date.’”

“Springsteen has always expressed a love of performing in the U.K. and, from what I understand, any opportunity to put Leeds Arena through its paces was too much to resist,” Arena sales and marketing director Tony Watson told the newspaper.  “We’re more than happy to take orders from The Boss on this occasion.”

Tickets for Springsteen’s Leeds Arena gig go on sale Feb. 22.  Click here for more information.

The stage at George Jones’ last Nashville concert is beginning to look a bit crowded.  Embarking on a farewell tour this year, his Nov. 22 gig at Bridgestone Arena isn’t necessarily being called his last touring date ever, but it has been designated as his last concert in Music City.

One thing is for sure, Jones won’t be going it alone when he walks out on that Bridgestone stage. With Charlie Daniels, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Travis, Jamey Johnson and Gene Watson already announced as joining the country music legend for that special evening, this week brought even more names with Josh Turner, Kenny Rogers, Montgomery Gentry and Dierks Bentley signing on for the historic moment.

“I am excited that all my friends all want to be with me on this show,” Jones said.  “This is sure going to be a fun and emotional night with lots of memories, friends, and great country music.”

By now you’re probably used to seeing venues named after companies.  Corporate naming rights is big business and these days it’s easier to count the major venues that haven’t succumbed to trading their original names for a seven-figure check and new signage. Venues like California’s <, in Bristow, Va.; in Louisville, Ky.; and in Clarkston, Mich., north of Detroit are just a few examples of corporations extending their branding into other commercial areas.  Sure, New York City still has Madison Square Garden, but the newest arena in the area – Brooklyn’s – is named after a British multinational banking and financial services company.

Now a private prison company is getting into the act.  Florida Atlantic University, located in Boca Raton, Fla., has agreed to rename its football stadium “GEO Stadium Group,” according to The New York Times.

Turns out that the prison-managing GEO Group is also based in Boca Raton and it could be argued that this is merely a local business helping out a local school by giving it $6 million in return for naming rights.  After all, money is money –  something almost every school doesn’t have enough of these days.

“We use no state money to run our athletic program,” Florida Atlantic University president Mary Jane Saunders said, according to The Times.  “It’s important for us to use our naming rights to fund the stadium and fund scholarships.”

Evidently GEO and the university have some strong ties.  The company’s chairman has earned two degrees from the school and served as its board of trustees’ chairman. Other members of the board have also work worked for GEO.  Small world, isn’t it?