Whither naming rights at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium?
Two months ago, the National Guard was close to a deal to attach its name to the stadium in return for a multimillion-dollar payment to the District -- until U.S. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and top military brass put a stop to that.
A month ago, ProFunds Advisors, a Bethesda-based investment firm, was nearing an RFK naming rights deal worth more than $5 million for three years.
But now, after the Washington Nationals have played more than a quarter of their home games for the season, there is still no deal in place, and the venerable old stadium has kept the name it has gone by since the late 1960s.
So is the deal off?
No, said Mark H. Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission.
"We're not there yet, but we're talking [with ProFunds] and continue to be hopeful we'll be able to have an agreement," Tuohey said.
He added that the commission and ProFunds probably will come to a final decision in the next few days. If the ProFunds deal does not happen, Tuohey said, the commission will move on to another potential sponsor.
"We have a couple of other irons in the fire," he said.
If a sponsor is found, the stadium still will be called RFK, and the corporation's name will be added.
The commission began seeking a sponsor in March and plans to use money from the sponsorship to improve youth recreation facilities in the city.
The sponsorship would be for the three seasons that the Nationals are to play at RFK, which seats about 45,000 baseball fans. The deal also could include a sponsorship payment to the team in exchange for additional marketing opportunities.
Some city leaders have been left to wonder what has happened to the deal.
"Last I heard, we were close to finalizing things with ProFunds. I just assumed it was a done deal," said D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5). "I would hope it still happens, because the financial benefits go to the community."
ProFunds officials declined to comment.
But sources close to the negotiations have said that one sticking point is the length of the contract, with ProFunds seeking a fourth year, which is expected to be at a new stadium along the Anacostia waterfront in Southeast.
Sponsors typically pay $4 million to $5 million a year to put their name on a new stadium. The city might be losing potential revenue as each home game passes, industry experts have said. The commission had hoped to have the sponsorship in place before President Bush threw out the first pitch at the April 14 home opener.
The possibility of the National Guard's sponsorship ended when Warner and others expressed the view that putting the organization's name on the stadium would send a bad message when money could be better spent on bonuses and better equipment for troops overseas.
Tuohey said he still hopes the Guard will be involved with RFK for baseball games, possibly having recruiting booths or other advertising inside the stadium.
"After we conclude the current discussions [with ProFunds], I'll contact them again," Tuohey said.
Orange, meanwhile, said he plans to contact Tuohey.
"I'm curious about what's going on," he said.
Staff writer Thomas Heath contributed to this report.