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Branding Our Colosseums

When San Francisco's famed Candlestick Park became "3Com Park" six years ago, the uproar could be heard on the opposite coast. Another proud public space had been renamed by a corporate high bidder.

But this week, the city decided enough was enough. It voted to give up the nearly $1 million a year from 3Com and return the name of the 49ers' homefield to "Candlestick."

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Still, nearly half the pro sports venues in the country have names from corporate sponsors. San Francisco's Giants play at Pacific Bell Park. Houston's Astros play at the recently retitled Minute Maid Park (the club wasted no time dropping the "Enron" name to reflect new sponsorship).

Money earned from such crass branding of public arenas helps pay for their upkeep. The aging Candlestick needs some $30 million in repairs. But San Francisco achieved a reasonable compromise. The 49ers, who made the deal with 3Com, can still earn money through advertising rights inside the park.

San Francisco has drawn a line where one has long been needed. Other cities should also preserve the heritage – and good names – of public sports complexes.