Are you going to any games this coming season at ZOZO?
How about Met Life?
We are not talking about Met Life Stadium, the gridiron facility called home by the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey, but rather to a baseball stadium in Japan.
The reference is to the Met Life Dome, the home ball park of the Saitama Seibu Lions in the western Tokyo suburb of Tokorozawa. That will be the new name, starting next month, of the stadium which has undergone three naming rights changes since Seibu Lions Kyujo was covered with a roof in 1999.
It became Invoice Seibu Dome through a sponsorship with the Invoice Communications firm in 2005. Then in 2007, the name changed to Goodwill Dome after a human resources company. In 2015, it was renamed Seibu Prince Dome, playing up the hotel chain of the Seibu group.
Seibu Railways never changes the name of its train station serving the ballpark and located a few steps from the entrance gates; it remains as Seibu Kyujo-mae, probably because the stadium name changes so often.
It is also ironic Met Life is sponsoring a domed facility, because its blimp with the Snoopy character, sometimes seen floating above Tokyo’s open-air Jingu Stadium and other ballparks in Japan, will not be able to view the Lions and their opponent teams on the field during games on account of the roof covering.
ZOZO refers to ZOZO Marine Stadium, Chiba home of the Lotte Marines which, until last season, was QVC Marine Field. Don’t confuse ZOZO with Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium, home of the Carp in Hiroshima.
A third Pacific League home ground with a new identity this season will be Kobo Park Miyagi, home of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Sendai. Since the Eagles joined Japanese baseball as an expansion team in 2005, their ballpark has been known as Fullcast Stadium, Kleenex Stadium, Rakuten Kobo Stadium — and now Kobo Park Miyagi. Are you getting a headache yet?
Stadium naming rights in Japan seems to have begun in 2003 when Green Stadium Kobe, which opened in the late 1980s and was then the home of the Orix BlueWave, became Yahoo BB Stadium.
It did not take long for the name to change though; Yahoo BB became Skymark Airlines Stadium in 2005, while Yahoo took over naming rights in another Pacific League park. The SoftBank Hawks home ground became Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome.
Skymark became Hotto Motto Stadium with sponsorship from a Japanese fast-food chain in 2012. Fukuoka Dome changed its name again in 2013, becoming Yafuoku! (with the exclamation mark) Dome after Yahoo Auctions.
Osaka Dome, home to the Orix Buffaloes, in 2006 was renamed Kyocera Dome, backed by the Kansai-based ceramics company. Today, six of the seven Pacific League parks (counting Kobe’s Hotto Motto where the Buffaloes are to play 17 home games in 2017) are named after a sponsoring company.
The stadium naming rights movement in Japan follows what has been going on in Major League Baseball and other sports over the years. MLB Stadiums used to be named for people, usually team owners.
Remember Ebbets Field, the home of the Dodgers in Brooklyn through 1957?
There was also Crosley Field in Cincinnati, the White Sox’ Comiskey Park in Chicago, Briggs Stadium in Detroit, Griffith Stadium in Washington.
Apparently, in the 1950s, no one thought of making some extra money by selling the naming rights to a ballpark. However, the concept of giving corporate names to Major League parks may go back 105 years. According to Wikipedia, Boston’s Fenway Park was opened in 1912, and the name comes from the stadium owner who also owned the Fenway Realty company.
More likely, however, it was in 1926 when the owner of the Chicago Cubs named his park Wrigley Field. Not only was it the owner’s name, but also the brand of his chewing gum company and products. As we know, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are still in use and seemingly may go on forever by those names.
There were also controversies over MLB stadiums being named after beers. Sportsman’s Park, the old St. Louis Cardinals stadium of the 1950s, was to be called Budweiser Stadium, but commissioner Ford Frick nixed the idea. Things have changed since then, however, and we now have Miller Park in Milwaukee and Coors Field in Denver.
The U.S. banking industry is heavily involved in sponsoring American stadiums. You’ve got Citi Field where the New York Mets play, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Comerica Park in Detroit, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Chase Field in Phoenix. The Atlanta Braves this year will move out of Ted Turner Field, the converted 1996 Olympic stadium, and into the new Sun Trust Field.
This season the Chicago White Sox will play in the renamed Guaranteed Rate Field, and my favorite named stadium is Minute Maid Park in Houston, nicknamed the “Juice Box.”
We still have some easy-to-remember names such as Yankee Stadium, Marlins Park, Nationals Park and Dodger Stadium in the U.S. and, so far, no corporate names have been attached in Japan to Sapporo Dome, Tokyo Dome and Nagoya Dome.
No doubt the naming rights craze will continue to expand throughout sports, as long as they are worth millions of dollars, and stadiums will change their identities faster than we can get used to them.
For now, I’ll see you at a Pacific League game at Met Life Dome or ZOZO Marine Stadium this season.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com
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