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Texas Lawmaker Fights Corporate Naming of Publicly Funded Arena

Fed up with seeing corporate names on facilities funded with public money, Houston's Astrodome in particular, Rep. Ron Wilson (D-Houston) introduced legislation that received preliminary approval by the Texas House on future arena naming.

According to the Houston Chronicle, this would determine whether the Houston Rockets basketball team could sell the building's name to a private company when its new arena is built. The bill mandates a community vote to allow a city or county to sell the name of a building built with public money before any contract can be signed.

In 1999, voters rejected a proposal to build an arena with public funds, but last November, approved a public-private plan. As part of that plan, the city gave the Rockets permission to sell the building's name and retain 95 percent of the profit, reports the paper. Billy Burge, sports authority chairman, told the paper, that because voters gave their approval knowing the arena's name would be sold, there is no need for another election. If the bill get full House approval, it would be Houston's third downtown arena-related election.

Wilson said he has pursued his amendment because of Reliant Energy's naming of the former Astrodome.

"Eventually the old Astrodome will get its name back," Wilson said, noting that when the energy company's contract ends in 30 years, the county would have to hold a vote before the complex's name could be resold.

Final House approval is expected today. Then it's on to the Senate, where it may face a tougher going.