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Thursday, June 03, 2004 - Page updated at 12:45 A.M.

Qwest buying naming rights to Seahawks Stadium

By Jose Miguel Romero
Seattle Times staff reporter

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As of today, Seahawks Stadium is now known as Qwest Field.

All that remains is approval from the Washington State Public Stadium Authority, a few changes in signage and a new paint job for the roof of the stadium, on which is painted "Seahawks Stadium" in giant blue letters.

Tod Leiweke, the Seahawks chief executive officer, announced the name change today at a media conference on the field at the stadium. He credited the Seahawks' undefeated season at home in 2003 as among the reasons a deal with Qwest - a Denver-based telecommunications corporation - was reached.

"We felt the time was right to go out and re-double our efforts and find the right naming partner," Leiweke said. "We wanted certainly to make an investment and commit to a term that would be commensurate with other like venues and other like NFL markets. We were choosy. We wanted to have the right brand on this stadium."

Leiweke and executives from First & Goal, Inc., the company that oversees the Seahawks, the stadium and the Qwest (formerly Stadium Exhibition) Center, sought out the Bonham Group, a sports marketing firm also out of Denver. Bonham brought Qwest and First & Goal together, and the two companies worked out a long-tem deal.

Leiweke paused while a giant screen in the south end zone showed a computer-enhanced image of the roof's letters being changed to read "Qwest Field."

First & Goal pledged to Qwest and investment of products and services that represents more than 35 percent of the annual sponsorship fee. The length of the naming rights deal and its financial terms were not immediately available.

The Seahawks and Qwest will join together in a number of community programs, one involving team captains of state high-school football teams and another where two walls in the Qwest Field plaza will recognize each one of the 338 high-school football teams in the state.

Kirk Nelson, president of Qwest for Washington state, said the deal makes good business sense for Qwest, despite recent financial losses for the company.

The stadium authority must approve the deal within 35 days after receiving the proposal for the naming rights change. The authority has yet to receive the proposal, a spokesperson for PSA confirmed yesterday.

The PSA has hired sports consultant Dan Barrett of Southern California to review the proposal, and a legislative advisory committee will also provide input. The PSA will determine if the financial terms are close enough to compare with other naming rights deals around the country.

Part of the money from the deal will go into a PSA-managed maintenance and modernization fund for the stadium.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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