A new moniker is added to the historic Navy Pier.
The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority has sold naming rights to Navy Pier’s front entranceway for $20 million to the Polk Bros. Foundation.
The foundation, which provides grants to nonprofits that work to reduce poverty and improve education and health care, is the first organization to help underwrite a massive rebuilding project at the pier. The sale is the first in what pier officials hope will be a series of sponsorships.
Navy Pier is the largest tourist attraction in the Chicago area, attracting almost 10 million visitors a year.
Sneed is told that pier officials have scheduled a news conference for Thursday morning to announce the deal. Under the agreement, Navy Pier will retain its name, but it is expected that the Gateway Park area will be renamed Polk Park. It is unclear how long the naming rights will last.
The trend toward selling specific naming rights to parts of entertainment venues is gaining steam. Though Yankee Stadium name is not for sale, sponsors can put their names on other property inside.
Shortly after Sneed’s Navy Pier scoop hit the Internet on Wednesday, Navy Pier issued a press release via Henson Consulting, stating that “a $20 million legacy gift toward the dramatic transformation of the city’s most iconic and highly popular leisure destination” will be announced Thursday.
“The donation marks the single largest private gift ever made to Navy Pier in its nearly 100-year history and will support the redevelopment of 13 acres, including Navy Pier’s entrance — Gateway Park,” according to the release.
Fiscal guru William Brodsky, executive chairman of the Chicago Board Options Exchange and chairman of Navy Pier Inc. — which leases the pier from the MPEA, was given the go-ahead by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2013 to spiff up the aging landmark.
“We have a mandate to take the pier to the next level,” Brodsky told Sneed over lunch last year. “It’s tired. A not-for-profit can raise funds so the whole burden of redoing Navy Pier doesn’t fall on the government . . . like Lincoln Park Zoo and Millennium Park.”
Brodsky, who was tapped by the mayor to renovate Navy Pier because of his high degree of financial and business operations savvy, declined to comment on the Polk naming rights deal before Thursday’s announcement.