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Yankee Stadium May Go Corporate

Budweiser Yankee Stadium?

Or maybe Yahoo! Yankee Stadium?

The Yankees, in the process of merging their business operations with the New Jersey Nets, may be willing -- for a price -- to change the name of the House that Ruth Built.

"Sooner or later, they will be interested in it," said Howard Rubenstein, the spokesman for YankeeNets. "But they will probably will want to determine where they want to place a new Yankee Stadium, and then they'll deal with all the ancillary issues."

The Yankees' lease to play in Yankee Stadium expires in three years, and the team has talked about three options: rebuilding the current ballpark, which opened in 1923 and was extensively remodeled from 1974-76; constructing a new ballpark near Madison Square Garden on the West Side of Manhattan; or constructing a new ballpark in New Jersey.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner expects New York City or New Jersey state and/or municipal governments pay for most of the construction, but no financing has appeared and the team hasn't committed to any plan.

Rubenstein thinks the "Yankee" will remain in Yankee Stadium no matter what, even if there's an addition. He doesn't expect the name to meet the fate of the Nets' home court, which started out at Brendan T. Byrne Arena and become Continental Airlines Arena in 1996 after the company agreed to pay $29 million over 12 years.

"They would consider naming rights, but I doubt very much they would eliminate the name Yankee Stadium," Rubenstein said. "If anything, they would attach to the name Yankee Stadium. It would be to the corporation's advantage to attach onto the Yankee name rather than do what happened in New Jersey."

The Yankees and Nets have a memorandum of understanding about the merger, but must still negotiate a complete agreement -- never an easy task when Steinbrenner is involved.

"Issues such as naming rights and joint promotions, marketing issues and signage are being discussed now," Rubenstein said.

While Yankee Stadium is owned by New York City, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has said he expected naming rights to be part of any development of redevelopment package.

In the last few years, Cinergy (Cincinnati), Edison International (Anaheim), Qualcomm (San Diego), Pro Player (Florida), 3Com (San Francisco) and Tropicana (Tampa Bay) have signed deals to gets their names on major league ballparks, and Bank One (Arizona) and Coors (Denver) attached their names to new ones.

Between now and 2001, ballparks with corporate names will open in Detroit (Comerica), Milwaukee (Miller), Pittsburgh (PNC), San Francisco (Pacific Bell) and Seattle (Safeco).

Steinbrenner has been aggressive with his marketing deals, agreeing two years ago to a $95 million, 10-year contract with Adidas even though parts of it conflicted with baseball's national marketing deals.

Although the Yankees and Adidas sued baseball in May 1997, the case was resolved a year later, with the sporting goods company signing a national agreement with Major League Baseball Properties.

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