Save the Seahawks from CenturyStink!

Our stadium deserves a better name. Howard Schultz, where are you?
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CenturyLink's naming rights expire in 2019. Doesn't Starbucks Stadium have a nice ring?

Our stadium deserves a better name. Howard Schultz, where are you?

The only problem with the Seahawks’ march to glory is where it’s happening — or rather, what that where is called. The Hawks and the Sounders are playing their hearts out and fans are cheering out theirs in a field renamed after one of the most unloved companies doing business in Seattle. How unloved? CenturyLink achieves the rare feat of making its rival Comcast — Comcast! — seem a paragon of customer-friendly service.

I suspect I’m not the only one who, when that oversized “CenturyLink” logo fills the TV screen or the SoDo skyline, thinks of the DSL connection that never worked right, the stinker contract terms hidden in the fine print or the 45 minutes on hold listening to an especially excruciating Muzak loop and most creepily smarmy voice in the auto-reply universe. CenturyStink Field, indeed.

I’ll concede it could be worse. The Hawks and Sounders could be playing at Bank of America Stadium (in Charlotte) or Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver). And when Louisiana-based CenturyLink bought the right to name what was then Qwest Field, along with Qwest itself in 2010, it marked an improvement in one way: We no longer had to grimace each day at that cutesy-pretentious corporate misspelling.

But at least “Qwest Field” sounded like a field of dreams. “CenturyLink Field” sounds like what it is: $75 million worth of naming rights. Or maybe a provision in some forgotten corporate mission statement or Democratic Party platform.

Even if you like the name, there’s no assurance it will be around next year. Telecoms are a business still ripe for consolidation, as CenturyLink’s core landline business shrinks. The next merger might bring better service but an even clunkier name.

Nothing to be done about it, you say? Ah, but there is. CenturyLink’s naming rights expire in 2019, and it might sell them sooner for the right price. Either way, they won't come cheap. Seventy-five million is chump change next to the nine-figure sums subsequent stadium namings have commanded, and if the Seahawks keep racking up championships, it will go even higher.

So who could afford it?

Starbucks has the means and Howard Schultz has the motive. He still owes local sports fans bigtime for selling the Sonics to Oklahoma buyers who, whaddaya know, really did want to move them to Oklahoma City. I’m not crazy about his coffee or his stores — the best thing about them is they haven’t done to independent coffeehouses what Amazon’s doing to independent bookstores. But having Howard name the stadium would be a win-win-win. He gets redemption. Starbucks, whose products are actually sold there, gets more bang from the investment than CenturyLink ever could. We get a stadium named after a homegrown anchor company.

And “Starbucks Stadium” trips off the tongue like Richard Sherman sprinting over the zero-yard line. How about it, Howard?


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About the Authors & Contributors

Eric Scigliano

Eric Scigliano

Eric Scigliano's reporting on social and environmental issues for The Weekly (later Seattle Weekly) won Livingston, Kennedy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other honors. He has also written for Harper's, New Scientist, and many other publications. One of his books, Michelangelo's Mountain, was a finalist for the Washington Book Award. His other books include Puget SoundLove, War, and Circuses (aka Seeing the Elephant); and, with Curtis E. Ebbesmeyer, Flotsametrics.