Raleigh, N.C. — 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.