Fresno · Health

Backlash swells over Valley Children’s $10mil deal to name Bulldog Stadium

Valley Children’s Healthcare’s $10 million, 10-year deal for the naming rights to Fresno State’s football stadium has prompted a backlash on social media and across the community that some say will make them think twice before donating to support the children’s hospital.

The deal, which was announced in August 2021, was finalized last week when the California State University Board of Trustees voted to approve it. Bulldog Stadium will now be known as Valley Children’s Stadium.

But the deal isn’t sitting well with some area residents who say Valley Children’s is “squandering funds” and inappropriately putting its name on a facility where sports injuries such as concussions are likelier to occur.

They questioned whether Valley Children’s was spending money from donations, such as from the annual Kids Day newspaper sales that for years raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in a single day in March, or from fundraising efforts in grocery stores.

Unusual Arrangement

The critics ask, why not buy naming rights to a school of nursing, or something more appropriate to children’s healthcare? And why does Valley Children’s even need to market itself, since it is already well-known to Valley families, whether or not they’ve used its services?

“What would any business or MBA student tell you about bad PR? They will never get another donation from me because I see this as squandering funds,” a northwest Fresno resident said on the Next Door app.

A nonprofit spending $10 million on stadium naming rights is certainly unusual, said Jan Masaoka, CEO of the California Association of Nonprofits.

“It’s rare for a nonprofit to spend a large amount sponsoring a building name,” she said. “That’s a lot of money. Who’s their competition? It’s usually that sort of thing that prompts a big push, in response to a perceived concern.”

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.