Money meltdown creates identity crises

NEW YORK — First the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the 1990s, then the accounting scandals earlier this decade, forced ballparks and arenas around the country to change their names.

Now, the Wall Street meltdown is creating its own identity crisis for arenas and teams that bear the names of financial companies that are suddenly disappearing or in distress.

The Wachovia Center arena in Philadelphia and WaMu theaters at Madison Square Garden and in Seattle are among the venues whose names face an uncertain future.

Similarly, players on England's storied Manchester United soccer team wear the AIG name on their jerseys, advertising a company that fell so deeply into financial trouble that the U.S. government took control of it.

Some arenas might see a name change.

"I would think that would be the top order of the day to get that switched over," said Rob Vogel, president of the Bonham Group, which helps broker sponsorship and naming-rights deals. "It's in everyone's best interests to get that rebranded as quickly as possible."

When Enron Corp. collapsed in a spectacular case of accounting fraud, the Houston Astros were quick to scrub the company's name from the team's ballpark, Enron Field.

Most naming-rights contracts provide for a switch.