Marquee: WaMu Gets MSG Theater Name

New York's venerable Madison Square Garden may be one of the few pro-sports venues resisting the temptation to sell its name to a corporation, but the trend just got closer--literally. On Thursday, MSG's adjacent 5,600-seat theater facility became the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, via a multiyear deal with the eponymous national bank.

The facility had been known as The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Terms of the deal with Washington Mutual, now branded as WaMu, were not disclosed. While it raises the issue of whether a corporate name would ever be attached to the flagship arena, MSG says ownership insists it has no plans to sell naming rights there.

The MSG deal marks the first time the MSG unit of Cablevision has made any naming-rights deals. The company also operates Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater in New York.

The agreement calls for WaMu to receive signage throughout the theater and on the Garden building, and the placement of 11 WaMu ATMs in the theater and Garden itself. The move is part of WaMu's push to raise its profile in the lucrative New York market, where it has 325 retail outlets. WaMu made a similar deal that yielded the WaMu Theater in Seattle when it opened last year.

Only a handful of pro sports venues are without corporate names, mostly broken into two categories--eminent venues not wanting to tinker with tradition, like Fenway Park in Boston, or owners who would like to sell the rights, but can't seem to find a taker, such as Dolphin Stadium in Miami. Many entertainment theaters like MSG's have also joined the trend, including a slew on Broadway that bear names of companies, such as American Airlines (which is also on sports arenas in Miami and Dallas), Hilton and Nokia.

The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden is more than 30 years old and has hosted events such as the NFL Draft and marquee boxing matches, along with concerts featuring top artists Elton John and Neil Young and MTV Networks' glitzy 2006 upfront presentation.

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