Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh's Substance Abuse Advisory Commission said Tuesday that naming the new downtown amphitheater for a beer would send the wrong message to children and hurt those dealing with substance abuse problems.
City officials are working with Anheuser-Busch and local distributor Harris Wholesale on a deal for the amphitheater's naming rights. The proposed deal would name the venue the Bud Light Amphitheater in exchange for $300,000 a year over five years.
Mayor Charles Meeker has called the deal "a purely financial transaction," noting that the money the city would receive would cover most of the operating costs for the 5,000-seat amphitheater, which is across McDowell Street from the Raleigh Convention Center.
But some have expressed opposition to the deal, saying it would promote underage drinking.
"We are opposed to it,” said Karen Kranbuehl, a member of Raleigh's Substance Abuse Advisory Commission.
Raleigh Mayor Pro Tem James West disagreed and said the city needs the money.
"Sometimes we have to make tough decisions in very difficult times when we need revenue,” he said Tuesday.
Council members with whom WRAL News spoke with appeared to be split on the naming-rights deal.
"Not only being a governmental agency, but also in the capital city, I don't think it is very appropriate for us to do,” Councilman Thomas Crowder said in opposition.
Councilwoman Nancy MacFarlane said she remains undecided.
"We need to weigh the pros and cons of it,” she said.
An online survey of citizens conducted last month by the city found that most were in favor of naming the amphitheater after a beer. Of the more 1,600 people who responded, 55 percent said they would support it.
The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission must approve any deal Raleigh strikes with Anheuser-Busch and Harris Wholesale. Under state liquor advertising regulations, an alcoholic beverage cannot be part of the name of a public venue.
A 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.
Raleigh-based band The Connells will headline an open house at the amphitheater on June 4. Other bands to play at the event include I Was Totally Destroying It, Mosadi Music, Old Avenue, Seep Control, The Small Ponds and Th' Bullfrog Willard McGee.
On June 6, the pop group The Backstreet Boys will formally open the amphitheater.
The city has a deal with concert promoter LiveNation to bring 15 to 20 events each year to the amphitheater, and the venue also will host local events.