Local News

Raleigh seeks Bud Light name on downtown amphitheater

Posted May 12, 2010
Updated May 17, 2010

— Raleigh is working with Anheuser-Busch on a deal for the naming rights to the city's new downtown amphitheater, but state liquor regulators are hesitant to approve such a deal, WRAL News has learned.

The City Council last week voted to name the venue the Bud Light Amphitheater for an undisclosed sum, according to a statement signed by City Clerk Gail Smith.

"This will help us pay for a very substantial portion of the amphitheater. So we are hopeful that it will be approved," Mayor Charles Meeker said Wednesday.

Doug Grissom, assistant director of the Raleigh Convention Center, which operates the amphitheater, said Wednesday that no deal has been reached and that the City Council hasn't voted on the draft contract obtained by WRAL News.

"We are not into a contract. We have not negotiated or signed a naming-rights contract with anyone," Grissom said.

City staff members used other naming-rights deals to cobble together a proposal to present to Harris Wholesale, a Raleigh-based Anheuser-Busch distributor, to begin negotiations, Grissom said.

The council vote, he said, was so the city could seek the approval of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission on a deal with Harris Wholesale. Under state liquor advertising regulations, an alcoholic beverage cannot be part of the name of a public venue.

Harris Wholesale President John Glover appealed to the ABC Commission on Wednesday to allow the naming-rights deal to go through.

Commission Chairman Jon Williams said the decision could set a statewide precedent, and the panel agreed to put off a vote until its June meeting.

The draft contract with Anheuser-Busch calls for a marquee with the Bud Light name over the amphitheater entrance and the inclusion of the beer's name in all print, radio, television and online advertising. In addition, Anheuser-Busch would receive 16 tickets and a four-seat VIP box at each concert, parking passes and the opportunity to meet performers.

Meeker said he hopes the ABC Commission will support the deal.

"Ten or 20 years ago, you wouldn't have seen a public facility named after a beer or beer company in a Southern city, but things really have changed," Meeker said.

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said he thinks the deal will promote underage drinking.

"To name a building for Bud Light in my estimation is the height of irresponsibility," Creech said. "It shows just how little we really care for our children and just how little we care for others who you might say are weak with respect to the use of alcohol."

Bud Light has sponsored the summer concert series on Moore Square, the mayor said, adding that he hasn't heard of any complaints about that.

Raleigh officials have agreed with concert promoter LiveNation to bring 15 to 20 events each year to the 5,000-seat amphitheater, which is located across McDowell Street from the Raleigh Convention Center. The venue also will host local events, and city officials said they expect it to turn a $500,000 annual profit.

The amphitheater is scheduled to open June 6 with a concert by the pop group The Backstreet Boys.


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  • Equinox Bandingo May 17, 2010

    Perhaps this is great opportunity to honor Clarence Lightner now that most citizens agree that a new public safety center is a bad idea and the only people who support it are the Mayor, city manager and a couple of other council members.

    I suggest the amphitheater be named the the Clarence E. Lightner Arts and Entertainment Amphitheater with sponsorship money from Bud Light going to support the former Mayor's endowment fund.

  • SaltlifeLady May 17, 2010

    They need to come up with a better name, but I dont think there is an issue with Anheiser sponsoring it. Even if it was named the Bud Light ampitheater, I don't think that will encourage underage drinking. People who still think that way have their heads in the sand and are the same people who think if we have a more comprehensive sex education program in the schools more kids will have sex. All you have to do is work in the schools to know the abstinence-only policy is not working. I think BudLight ampitheater is not a good name and Anheiser Busch Ampitheater sounds better. BTW, are more teenagers opening accounts at RBC or subscribing to cable more because of naming rights? Somehow, I doubt it.

  • DawgDue May 13, 2010

    Uptown Amphitheatre in Charlotte at the NC Music Factory is completely open air and it seems to be fine. Same goes for Booth in Cary. Heck the lawn at Walnut Creek is 13,000 and reserved seats are 7,000, but 4,000 of those are uncovered. What the point you're trying to make? You're afraid of rain? As far as the stage, it appears as if this stage both the roof and stage floor are mobile where the can be adjusted in height.

  • ykm May 13, 2010

    Raleigh should try to get Anheuser-Busch on the new Cop Shop they want. Might could help.

  • corey3rd May 13, 2010

    No matter what they call this atrocity, it's a parking lot in waiting. look at it. It's a parking lot. The stage height promises that your view will be blocked if somebody is four inches taller than you. And it's a parking lot that will be used in the middle of summer when it is 100 degrees, humid and chance of a thunderstorm. There's zero protection from the elements. What happens in the case of a downpour? They going to let you take shelter at a nearby parking deck or do they expect you to be drenched?

    For all the headaches this stupid space will inspire, they ought to get Bayer Aspirin to sponsor the dump.

  • dib May 13, 2010

    Can't we call it noodle soup amphitheater. Give the naming rights to lipton? I mean seriously, they don't have Bud Light Gardens. It's Bush Gardens. Even they don't name things after their products. Hey Kids We're going to the Bud Light Gardens! Grab your beer mugs! How about Anheuser-Busch Amphitheater.

  • dwntwnboy May 13, 2010

    "This town is nothing but class, all of it low."- well then, make sure you don't spend any time in our town. We don't need or want people like you.

  • DawgDue May 13, 2010

    Here is what I find to be amazing. For what, at least the past three or four years Bud Light and Budweiser have been the title sponsor to Downtown Live. I never once heard any complaint about this in any arena. Now Bud Light wants to put their name on a venue rather than an extremely popular and successful event and there is a major out cry. I wonder if this many people were upset when Cruzan Rum decided to sponsor an amphitheatre in Florida or when Landshark Lager put their name on Dolphin Stadium. Its a music venue, not a school. It wouldn't be the first venue to be sponsored by an alcoholic beverage and it surely wouldn't be the last.

  • nikerunning May 13, 2010

    Seriously, it is not that big of a deal.... It's just a name. It's just an ampitheater. No one is forcing you to do anything. Money talks. Get over it. Seriously....

  • Lone Voice in the Wilderness May 13, 2010

    @BeenHere: Raleigh owns (or co-owns) the performing arts center, named after Progess Energy. Raleigh owns (or co-owns) the ESA, which is now named the RBC Center. It's the alcohol that has people all upset.

    @Sinenomine: I-40/I-85/US-1/US-401 are all two-way streets. If you don't feel that Raleigh has any class, then help improve it by using any of the roads in the opposite direction. As a person who moved north to Raleigh, this city does have a lot to offer.