Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (WBBM) – The CTA is looking for corporate sponsors and a lot of them.
Its board members and officials has talked for years about the sale of naming rights and public-private partnerships. Recently, it reopened a rebuilt North/Clybourn Red Line station financed by Apple, which was accomplished without renaming the station. Wednesday, officials said it is preparing to hire a consultant who will help it determine what has value and aggressively market it.
CTA President Richard Rodriguez said that the cash-strapped agency is willing to consider just about any offer.
“Within reason,” Rodriguez said, indicating he had not heard anything objectionable so far.
He said he’s trying to think far beyond naming stations, bus or ‘L’ lines.
“Not just hard assets, but everything we have to offer,” he said. “It may be our name. Maybe our logo. There are tons of different things.”
The possibilities can boggle the mind, and more than a few of them have punch lines.
The Republican (Red) Line? The Democratic (Blue) Line? The CTA, brought to you by King Oscar Sardines? Plenty of opportunities to spin the wheels.
Reporters reminded Rodriguez that there was an attempt to appropriate the “Chicago Transit Authority” name more than 40 years ago by a group of DePaul University students who formed a rock band. CTA didn’t appreciate it much then, and forced the band to change its name for its second album, although the debut album is still available today.
They simplified the name and moved to Colorado, but a generation or two of fans still know them as “Chicago.”
But that was 1969, and CTA was able to live on farebox revenues. Times have changed.
Now, new board member John Bouman is asking if Rodriguez can engineer a bidding war between the Cubs and White Sox over the naming rights to the Red Line, which serves both Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field.
The agency’s logo is already in the shape of a ball.
Rodriguez joked that the highest bidder could fly a pennant from the top of its ballpark.
Awarding of corporate sponsorships could begin as early as next spring, once the opportunities have been packaged. He also said CTA would listen to any reasonable outside idea.