When Canada Lands Company heard that local web startup Vehicle Gateway was making a seventy-eight-million-dollar bid for the naming rights to the CN Tower, it was apparently news to them.
“The CN Tower’s naming rights are not currently for sale,” the Crown corporation said this morning.
In an interview yesterday with Peter Davies, Vehicle Gateway’s Sales and Marketing manager, Torontoist was told that the government was aware of their impending pitch. “This is a legitimate bid,” Davies said. “It’s definitely real and valid.”
Gordon McIvor, CLC’s vice-president of public and government affairs, says that there had been no contact between the two companies, adding that he first heard of the scheme from the media.
In a carefully worded press release, which conspicuously left open the possibility of selling naming rights in the future, the CLC stated that no bid requests have been made for the CN Tower’s naming rights, nor had tower management or the CLC been approached by Vehicle Gateway.
Peter Davies indicated to us that the alleged bid was timed to coincide with the release of the Ontario budget on Thursday, even though the CLC is a federal corporation. The Canada Lands Company has also announced its annual public meeting for April 14, wherein long-term plans for the CN Tower are traditionally revealed. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has publicly floated the idea of selling off naming rights to government-owned assets like the CN Tower.
Vehicle Gateway’s bid would see the CN Tower awash in green light at night, representing the company’s official corporate colour.
While it may be hard to imagine a rebranding of our city’s world-famous landmark, it’s hardly a novel idea these days. We’ve resigned ourselves to BMO Field, the Enwave Theatre, the Air Canada Centre, and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. We’ve watched films at the Scotiabank Theatre, at Toronto Life Square, and in the Visa Screening Room at TIFF. The Pantages is now the Canon, and the National Trade Centre at the Ex has made way for a Direct Energy logo. Yet there seems to be something rather sacred about our pointy projectile (as there is with the Eaton Centre and Chicago’s Wrigley Field), despite having already been named for a corporation.
Being beloved and historic may still not be enough: consider the Willis Tower in Chicago—formerly the world’s tallest building, and known until last summer as the Sears Tower. And if “VG Tower” sounds like it’s too ripe for jokes about female genitalia, UK football team Newcastle United had to play out their 2009 season at the SportsDirect.com@StJamesPark Stadium (we shit you not).
When the Canadian National Railway sold the tower to the Canada Lands Company in 1995, Torontonians feared a name change and wisdom prevailed: the building was renamed, but to “Canada’s National Tower,” allowing the recognizable CN moniker to remain. Between 1997 and 2003, the tower was operated by Peter Munk’s Trizec Properties, but following a twenty-six-million-dollar reno, Trizec broke the lease and control reverted back to the CLC.
As for Vehicle Gateway, the company insists that the financing exists and that the bid is the real deal. If they can’t get the CN Tower’s name changed, a company spokesperson claims that they’ve got other landmarks in their sights…plus a new glut of free publicity.