Arlington a winner in Cowboys’ naming deal

Posted Thursday, Jul. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy Just say Thursday was Name the Baby Day.

Both big-city mayors were on hand for a royal welcome.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price introduced Belle, the Fort Worth Zoo’s cute new elephant calf. (In Price’s drawl, she’s “Bay-ell.”)

Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck stood by as Jerry Jones finally named his baby AT&T Stadium, although it’s already a bouncing 4-year-old.

For Arlington taxpayers, it was about time.

“Cowboys Stadium” was fine. But that name cost the city money.

In the best cash-back phone deal ever, Arlington now stands to get $5 million or more from Dallas-based AT&T because Cluck drove a good bargain.

The way Cluck tells it, early in the dealing with Jones someone at City Hall thought to ask for a share of the naming rights.

“We all thought of it — I don’t remember who said it first,” Cluck said Thursday after the ceremony anointing the long-expected AT&T Stadium.

Cluck recalled a specific conversation: “I told Jerry, ‘Let’s talk about the naming rights. We need to be in there with you as a partner.’

“There was absolutely no resistance.”

In the final agreement, Arlington kept 5 percent of any naming-rights revenue up to $500,000 a year. The amount and length of the AT&T contract was not disclosed Thursday, but most guesses put it at about $18 million per year over multiple years. If it lasts 10 years, Arlington would get $5 million.

Cluck said he doesn’t know the exact amount of the contract or how much Arlington will be paid.

“We’ll know when we see the first check,” he said. The money will be applied directly to pay off the stadium bonds faster, he said.

That wasn’t the only smart line in the stadium deal.

Arlington also stipulated that if a location is identified in the stadium name, it can be only “Arlington.” (No “AT&T Texas Stadium” or even “AT&T Dallas Cowboys Stadium.”)

Arlington settled the Cowboys deal in the summer of 2004, right about when Fort Worth officials were lamenting their failure to secure either the name or more of any potential naming rights revenue at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jones already had a sponsor in mind when he was sketching his stadium.

“I don’t mind telling you that ‘AT&T’ was being put up in the corner in my handwriting,” he said Thursday, even acknowledging for perhaps the first time that the stadium’s shape “reminds someone of a cellphone.”

Arlington made a good call.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @BudKennedy

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