Soon (like Sept. 1 soon), if you’re in Omaha going to a Justin Timberlake concert or a pro wrestling event or an agricultural bankers conference, you’ll be walking through the doors of CHI Health Center Omaha.
The building at 455 N. 10th St., currently called the CenturyLink Center, will get its new name in September. CHI Health, part of the national nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives, will pay $23.6 million for 20 years of naming rights.
It took seven years, but we were just getting used to calling it CenturyLink instead of the Qwest Center, the building’s name when it opened in 2003.
Aside from the fact that it’s just nice when a company pays you roughly a million dollars a year to slap its name up onto your real estate, calling the building CHI Health Center doesn’t NOT make sense. The arena is home to Creighton men’s basketball, and CHI operates Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy and other area hospitals.
But still, at first blush, the name raises a few questions. Namely:
Is it a hospital?
Would any of my pre-existing conditions bar me from entry to a Garth Brooks show? Do you give flu shots? How much are they? Can I have a Dora the Explorer Band-Aid? Also, I don’t have insurance, will that be a problem?
“People become used to new names pretty quickly,” said Rob Simon, a marketing professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And people will get used to this one, too.
That said, Simon did wonder if a few people might mistakenly go to the center for medical care. At least initially.
And here’s a further complicating factor: the website chihealthcenter.com is the homepage for a health care center in Coney Island, which, for you geographical laypeople out there, is not a neighborhood in Omaha.
When World-Herald reporter Emily Nohr posed the question “Will people mistake the arena for a hospital?,” CHI Health CEO Cliff Robertson laughed and said, “We had that conversation internally. As we started to think about it, we thought, ‘Well, how many folks that are going to come to the Elton John concert in February really think they’re going to be going to a hospital ... ?’ So we don’t think it’ll be a big issue.”
Whatever the case, after a while, the CHI Health Center Omaha will achieve name recognition among the sports/concert/agricultural- bankers-meeting-going public.
This raises another question: What will be our shorthand designation for the arena?
The Chi (pronounced “chee”)? Or the Chi (pronounced “chai”)?
Will it be nicknamed The Clinic? The Hospital? Will teams opposing Creighton leave in a body bag? Will each game end with a doctor announcing the time of death?
If some … well-established band like the Eagles or Rush takes the stage, will extra medical staff be readily available? Just in case?
All valid and totally serious questions.
CHI Health Center is certainly not the first venue to carry a medical moniker.
There’s the Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva, Illinois. The Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs, Kansas.
If you dip into other areas of company-sponsored arenas, things get strange fast.
“Some of these names that are out there,” Simon said, “they just don’t make much sense.”
For example …
The Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky (at the very least we don’t carry an exclamation point in any of our arena names.)
Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
There are arenas named after Jenny Craig and Whataburger and Save Mart, arenas named after insurance companies and arenas whose names double as URLs.
You want to get really weird, go to some arenas abroad.
Go to the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam, India. Or to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, home of the Castleford Tigers rugby team in England and named after a hydraulics company dealing specifically in hoses.
Go to Denmark, and you’ll find Middelfart Stadium, home to the Middelfart football club. Middelfart is a town and not a corporate sponsor, but I thought it would be irresponsible not to mention it.
So, sure, while it would be nice if the area had a few more classic venue names — something along the lines of a Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium — CHI certainly plays better than the Yum! Center and much better than Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium.
“We’re just in a marketing world today,” Simon said. “It’s kind of a fact of life. Most of us are well aware of it and accept it.”
But, he noted, corporate sponsors come with a certain amount of risk. A brand can always go bad.
R.I.P. Houston’s Enron Field (2000-2002).