San Diego Business Journal

If San Diego City Councilman Brian Maienschein gets his way, 26 blocks in Downtown's East Village could end up with a name like the Sempra Energy District or The Ballpark District presented by Gateway.

Maienschein wants the city to sell naming rights to the 26-block redevelopment area surrounding the ballpark to help with the city's portion of the $1 billion ballpark district project under way in the East Village.

No companies have come forward to show interest in the project, but the councilman is hopeful some will.

Selling naming rights on area facilities is nothing new locally. There's Qualcomm Stadium, Cox Arena and the Coors Amphitheatre in the county. But putting a name on an area, as opposed to a facility, is different.

Maienschein admitted there are still a lot of questions surrounding his plan that need to be answered: Will it conflict with the Padres plan to sell naming rights on the stadium? Will business owners in the new district object to a corporate sponsor?

"It's possible that this won't work," said Maienschein, who represents the 5th District that includes Rancho Bernardo, Carmel Mountain Ranch and Scripps Ranch. "If it won't work, at least we tried to do something about it. Maybe this one won't work, but it could lead to another one that does."

Another question: Would the naming rights deal be limited to the ballpark area?

City Councilwoman Toni Atkins said the deal should be approached with caution, because it could lead down a road the city may not want to take.

"I could potentially be in support of any plan that would help us pay for the ballpark," Atkins said. "However with larger areas, I'm going to approach with some caution.

"When you start to sell off pieces of neighborhoods and communities, you really have to proceed cautiously, because it opens up a new discussion and direction."

Maienschein said his plan focuses only the area surrounding the ballpark.

Under the memorandum of understanding negotiated by the City Council under Mayor Susan Golding, the Padres own the naming rights to the stadium and retail parcels adjacent to the ballpark. The agreement does not clarify who owns naming rights to the 26-block district surrounding the ballpark.

It has been estimated that naming rights to the stadium could generate as much as $200 million in revenue for the Padres, according to information provided by Maienschein and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

Maienschein delivered his proposal to City Attorney Casey Gwinn to weigh its feasibility.

The Padres would not comment in detail regarding Maienschein's plan. In a prepared statement, club President and CEO Larry Lucchino said they will wait for a legal analysis of the plan by the city attorney and Padres' lawyers and would respond after that.

When asked if he thought his plan would lessen the appeal of naming rights for the stadium, Maienschein said he didn't think it would, but also said that's not his responsibility.

"I'm very clear on the fact that I do not represent the Padres," the councilman said. "I have a responsibility to the citizens of San Diego, not the Padres. What I have to watch out for is just San Diegans."

Maienschein's plan was supported by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Jack Monger, past president and board member of the group, called the councilman's plan a bold proposal that should be vigorously examined to determine if it can be implemented.

"We have asked for and challenged the council to be innovative in this process," Monger said.

"We've been looking for this kind of bold thinking from City Hall for quite a while."