Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. For example, right now, there is a robot the size of a small truck driving around Mars shooting lasers at rocks.
One other thing humans have figured out is the so-called “1st & Ten” line. In American football–a complicated game–you have to advance at least ten yards towards the opposing team’s end zone in four “downs,” or plays, otherwise the opposing team gets the ball. In the go-go 90s, in an effort to help television audiences visualize this dynamic, television broadcasts started including a computer-generated yellow line showing just how far the team need to advance to get a first down. It is helpful, and allows viewers at home to focus on guacamole, etc., until it’s 3rd & 2.
Are there any other possible applications for this technology?
Last week U.S. Bank announced it had purchased the naming rights to the new Minnesota Vikings stadium rising on the east side of Minneapolis’ downtown. Such deals are common–see Target Field, Target Center, TCF Bank Stadium, the Midterm Elections Brought to You by Koch Industries, Xcel Energy Center, CHS Field, and previously, the mouthful of “Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.” U.S. Bank will pay $11 million dollars a year (to the Vikings, lol) for the next 20 years for the privilege.
U.S. Bank Stadium was the second least bad local option (the least bad option being, of course, Land O’Lakes Stadium) for naming rights: it’s kind of sterile and doesn’t really make you think too hard, it’s got “U.S.” in there which is the country we live in, and so the bank in there kind of occurs as an afterthought. It was a bit dismaying, though, to see this rendering appear on the Internet this week.
Damn, that’s a big bunch of words! You can blow up the photo by clicking on it, but even that will still be far smaller than the actual words. What font is that? Per the Strib story, the sign is 467 feet long. The actual field is only 360 feet long including the end zones.
It’s not super uncommon to put a big logo on the roof of a stadium; Ford Field in Detroit comes to mind, but there are others. Target Center, the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves, has a nice green roof styled in the manner of a leaf, but understandably an NBA arena’s naming value is much lower in a post-Space Jam world.
The thing is though, the Vikings’ stadium roof is slanted and as such this giant logo will be visible for miles in several directions, and seen by millions of people all the time. This, of course, is the point.
Have you even seen this stadium? pic.twitter.com/7k0TDrqYeo
— Nick Magrino (@nickmagrino) May 2, 2015
That will be gaudy and trashy. Some would argue that the stadium itself (and also the NFL) is gaudy and trashy, but I actually kind of like the stadium design! Looks like a big, black, scary spaceship. It will be…iconic. But one of the nice things about the Minneapolis skyline is that it is free from corporate branding and you’re not constantly reminded of the existence of our shadowy capitalist masters whenever you look up at the lights at sunset while playing volleyball on the south side of Lake Calhoun.
We give up a pretty big symbolic piece of public space with stuff like this. What with controversies over the funding of the stadium itself and the Minnesota Vikings’ influence over programming at the planning Downtown East Commons park, this is will be a reminder of who and what is on top, literally and figuratively. From the Mill District’s Gold Medal Park (funded by a local billionaire who paid the Securities and Exchange Commission a $468 million dollar settlement for hard-to-describe financial mischief and is now actively seeking subsidies for his own stadium) you’ll look over to the south and see it. Maybe the reminder isn’t all bad, but this is stadium design we’re talking about, so style over substance.
So what if they just…leave off the roof logo and then add it in with a computer for the TV-viewing public? We have the technology! Everyone in Minneapolis and in Minnesota already know what U.S. Bank is. If the point of naming rights is to get SportsCenter guests saying “U.S. Bank” more often so that audiences in Miami will consider U.S. Bank when searching for credit card #5, they will have succeeded.
Note: The author is a U.S. Bank customer. The tellers and staff at his downtown branch are all very nice.