The Houston Astros want their ballpark to be known for something other than the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
The National League baseball club signed a 30-year agreement with the company in April 1999 to call the new playing facility Enron Field. While the deal may provide income to the Astros, the stadium name has become a public relations nightmare since thousands of Houston-area residents lost not only their jobs but their pensions when Enron filed for bankruptcy.
"The Houston Astros have been materially and adversely affected by the negative public perception and media scrutiny resulting from Enron's alleged bad business practices and bankruptcy," said Astros president of business operations Pam Gardner. "We have worked diligently with Enron to transition the stadium name, but we've been unsuccessful. At this point, we have no other alternative but to seek relief from the bankruptcy court."
According to the Astros, Enron has spent the bankrupt estate's assets by paying approximately $108,000 for a suite and paying nearly $90,000 for box seats. The Astros claim that Enron wishes to sell the naming rights without the consent of the team.
"We do not believe that it is appropriate for Enron to continue to spend these large sums of money to have a baseball stadium named after it because the name of the stadium can not be changed without the Astros consent, so the naming rights Agreement has no economic value to Enron," Gardner said. "We believe that it is now time for the bankruptcy court to determine whether the naming rights agreement should continue."
Enron has made three annual rights fee payments under the naming rights agreement totaling $10.25 million, and the next rights fee payment of approximately $3.65 million is due on August 31, 2002.
Enron also agreed to purchase on an annual basis a 14-person suite and 35 Box Seats. The company paid approximately $108,000 for the 2002 suite on January 22 and paid nearly $90,000 for the 2002 box seat tickets on Monday.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.