Can't afford a stadium? Slap your name on a slugby Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
This week, Target became the latest corporation to slap its moniker across a sports arena. The Minnesota-based retailer will have naming rights for the new Twins ballpark for the next 25 years.
Of course, it's not just multi-million-dollar companies that like naming things after themselves. Human beings are pretty fond of it, too.
St. Paul, Minn. — Sure, Target will soon have its name splashed across a 40,000-seat baseball stadium. But Jeff Goodhartz got his handle on a Central American sea worm.
"This is something I had thought about for five, six, seven years," he said. "I don't know when I got the idea that it would be so cool to have an animal named after you. But I always thought you know I'm never going to be on an expedition, I'm never gonna discover something so I just figured that would be real cool, but it's never gonna happen."
Then, this past spring, the San Diego high school teacher came across an article in the weekend paper.
It was about the name-a-species initiative being launched by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The program sells the naming rights to newly discovered marine life.
Goodhartz called up Scripps first thing that Monday morning.
"And they had talked about the different levels of species -- the more complex the species, the more it costs to name it. And the cheapest ones were $5,000," he said. "That's a lot of money, I mean, I'm only a teacher."
The Scripps representative said he would email Goodhartz pictures of a couple of the $5,000 species.
In that category were two tiny worms.
"One was from Australia and one was from Belize," Goodhartz said. "As soon as the guy said that, I thought, 'Well, I'll probably take the Australia one because I've been there.'"
The man sent him the two pictures. The Australian worm was a pale white and the worm from Belize had blue and yellow fringes.
"I mean, it was beautiful," Goodhartz said. "And I love the color blue. As soon as I saw it, I said, 'That's the one I want.'"
Goodhartz shelled out the cash and christened the creature with his surname. To comply with scientific standards, the moniker was Latinized -- Goodhartzorum, meaning "the family of Goodhartz."
Goodhartz isn't the first to snap up the naming rights for a new species.
A California physician named a featherworm after her husband as an anniversary gift.
Back in 2005, the Golden Palace online casino paid $650,000 to name a newly discovered primate. The brown and orange monkey is now referred to as GoldenPalaceMonkey.com. In the Latin translation, the dot-com part was dropped.
Still, it's that kind of thing that has some worried about the commercialization of science.
They say it's bad enough to have to refer to sports arenas as Pringles Park or Jenny Craig Pavilion. They can't bear the thought of a Bank of America butterfly.
For the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, though, the decision to sell species naming rights came down to just one thing.
"We were looking for funds," said Lawrance Bailey, the institute's senior director of development.
Bailey said drastic budget cuts, combined with a decline in grants and donations, forced the institute to explore new ways to support its work.
For the past few years, groups like Conservation International and the German nonprofit Biopat have been selling naming rights to fund things like scientific research and the preservation of endangered species. Scripps decided to follow their lead.
And, the way Bailey sees it, there's nothing new about science rewarding its financial supporters.
"In the past, a lot of the collections were started by wealthy individuals who sponsored or were patrons for scientists and explorers," he said. "This is, in a way, carrying on that tradition, only it's giving people who are not so fabulously wealthy an opportunity to become a patron of science."
For Jeff Goodhartz, it's that connection to science that, in his words, really got him "jazzed."
"I'm not saying I'm the same as these people, but, you know, I'm in the field with Einstein and Newton and anyone else in science you can think of, again, it's a tiny little footnote, I'm in there with those guys."
Goodhartz said he can't wait to visit Belize, where the worm named after him resides.
"I doubt I could find it in the wild, but just to be able to say I was among my people," he said.
While the Target Corporation may get more publicity for its namesake, Goodhartz said that eventually, Target Field will be knocked down to make room for the next state-of-the-art stadium.
But his worm, and his family name, will be in the history books forever.
- All Things Considered, 09/17/2008, 6:24 p.m.