Pulling the plug
Astros buy back stadium naming rights from EnronPosted: Wednesday February 27, 2002 12:23 PM
Updated: Wednesday February 27, 2002 1:37 PM
HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- The Houston Astros are dropping the name "Enron Field" from their ballpark to relieve themselves of the embarrassment.
The team announced Wednesday that it had struck a deal with the bankrupt energy giant to pay it $2.1 million to buy back the naming rights to the ballpark, which would be called 'Astros Field' until a new sponsor could be found.
"It's time to move forward," Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. said. "I am very happy that we have been able to reach this settlement and put this issue behind us."
The deal is subject to approval by the federal bankruptcy court handling the Enron case. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday in New York.
At least seven companies with Houston ties have already approached the team about sponsoring it, and McLane said he hoped to have a deal within two or three months.
Enron officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The energy giant that collapsed in an accounting scandal had reached 30-year, $100 million deal in 1999 to name the Houston ballpark Enron Field. Despite its bankruptcy filing in December, Enron was current on its ballpark payments through next August.
Earlier this month, the Astros told the bankruptcy court that continuing to play at a stadium named Enron Field would hurt the team.
"Because the Enron name blankets the stadium, thousands of people who have been adversely affected by the Enron collapse are being reminded on a daily basis of this continuing tragedy," the team said in court papers.
Enron had previously argued that there was no provision in the contract that allows the team to back out unilaterally.
The company has made three annual payments totaling $10.25 million on the naming-rights deal. Enron also has remained current on its $200,000 payment for a suite and box seats. Wednesday's buyback deal includes the suite and box seats.
As part of the sponsorship deal, Enron's name was branded on exterior and interior signs and everything from staff members' uniforms to cups, napkins, plates and the tickets.