Monster Park

There's a certain commercial symbiosis between audio companies and public performance spaces. Tokyo has its Yamaha Hall; New York has its Avery Fisher Hall (1, 2), named for the hi-fi pioneer whose products were among the best available in the early 1960s.

Concert halls bespeak sophistication, but they don't have much advertising value. In the US, the real action is in sponsoring sports stadiums and the rowdy events held in them. So chalk up another one for the inimitable Noel Lee. On Monday, September 27, Lee's Monster Cable Products, Inc. announced that it had signed a four-year deal with the City of San Francisco and the city's National Football League franchise to rename the city's chilly, wind-swept stadium "Monster Park." The news was accompanied by a photo of the beaming "head monster" holding a San Francisco 49ers jersey with the name "Monster" emblazoned above a large number 1.

Monster Park is a big validation for the company and its founder, who started Monster Cable in his garage in the city's Sunset district in 1979. The company has grown steadily ever since, with products distributed throughout the world. The Monster Cable brand is so well known that it has become synonymous in the public mind with high-performance cables of all kinds—the way Xerox is used for all copiers and Kleenex for all tissues. Many of Monster's 750 employees work at its Brisbane, CA headquarters, almost within field goal distance of the stadium.

Monster reportedly will pay more than $6 million for the stadium naming rights, with the proceeds to be split evenly between the city and the 49ers. The deal is considered a bargain in stadium-sponsorship circles; FedEx is said to pay more than $7.6 million annually to attach its name to the Washington Redskins' home arena.

Monster outbid several high-profile competitors, including Oracle, Virgin USA, and banking giant Wells Fargo. A post-dot-com economic slump still dogs San Francisco—by some reports, commercial real estate vacancies are still above 20%—and therefore the bidding for stadium naming rights wasn't as intense as it might have been. Originally named Candlestick Park for the point of land it sits on, the venue was known as 3Com Park from 1996 to 2001. That deal expired as the last flailing dot-com closed its doors, and the park went without a sponsor until Monster Cable stepped up this year.

Many San Franciscans resent commercial intrusions into every aspect of modern life and refuse to call the park anything but Candlestick. There is even a proposition on the November ballot to ban attaching a corporate moniker to the publicly owned facility. City officials say that regardless of the election's outcome, "Monster Park" will stick.

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