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Corporate sponsorships are nothing new for sport stadiums. Think of Minute Maid Park in Houston, formerly Enron Field, the Staples Center in Los Angeles. But how about attaching a corporate sponsor to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.
As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, it's a possibility as bridge operators look for additional revenue.
RICHARD GONZALES: I'm standing near the toll plaza of the Golden Gate Bridge. Every day about 112,000 vehicles make the more-than-a-mile-long crossing between San Francisco and Marin County. And that's not counting the estimated 10 million people who visit this iconic structure every year.
But the bridge's $5 toll isn't enough to keep up with operating costs, which are running at an $80 million deficit over the next five years. That's why bridge officials are looking at corporate sponsorships to offset the costs. But they know selling that plan won't be easy.
Ms. MARY CURRIE (Bridge District Spokeswoman, Golden Gate Bridge): People hear partnership or sponsorship, and they immediately think of the one that keeps coming up as Google Gate Bridge. That's not the intention here.
GONZALES: Mary Currie is a spokeswoman for the agency in charge of the Golden Gate Bridge. She says corporate partners could pay for a new visitor center, historical markers, even restoration of the bridge's main cable. She says any signage would be tasteful, not in your face.
Ms. CURRIE: A potential partnership program for the Golden Gate Bridge is not naming rights, and it is not branding of this iconic structure.
GONZALES: Corporate naming rights are a delicate subject in this city. The baseball park has had three different names, and the football stadium is called Monster Park, after the company that makes cables for electronic equipment. When it comes to the bridge, many San Franciscans draw the line.
Ms. DEE DEE WORKMAN (Executive Director, San Francisco Beautiful): When you open the door to commercial advertisement, once that door is opened it doesn't close.
GONZALES: Dee Dee Workman is the executive director of a nonprofit called San Francisco Beautiful.
Ms. WORKMAN: At some point soon, maybe not tomorrow, but maybe next year or in five years, the proposal will come down the pike to either rename the bridge or put a banner across the bridge. We think that would be a huge mistake and we're trying to nip this in the bud.
GONZALES: Meanwhile, tourists visiting the bridge are divided. Jim Twitchell(ph) of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, says commercial ads would be okay as long as there are limits.
Mr. JIM TWITCHELL: I don't think it will make it look very tacky doing that. As long as they don't put anything the bridge itself or any of the pillars or anything like that. That would (unintelligible) look too good.
GONZALES: But Ken Hansman(ph) for Phoenix says Americans are getting too accustomed to corporate signage everywhere.
Mr. KEN HANSMAN: I'd prefer not to see it because, you know, it's the Golden Gate. Why have all those business monikers on it. (Unintelligible). Imagine a Coca-Cola sign above Alcatraz.
GONZALES: The deal is far from done. The 19-member board that runs the bridge is expected to vote on the corporate sponsorship proposal near the end of September.
Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.
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