This article was originally written in October, 2015.
TD Garden, home of the Boston Bruins, has only been open for a few decades. But in that time, it’s seen countless unforgettable moments. Playing host to the Bruins, Celtics, the Beanpot, Hockey East championships, figure skating, concerts, professional wrestling, and even box lacrosse has given plenty of people a great memory at TD Garden. In fact, over 30 million people have stepped foot in the arena over the last twenty-plus years.
In Boston, sports and history are intertwined. Each of the major teams in the city has a storied legacy, as does Boston’s most famous sporting grounds – Fenway Park. But Fenway isn’t the only stadium with a history worth telling. In fact, TD Garden has a rather bizarre history, particularly with regards to the 33 – yes, 33 different names it has had throughout it’s 24-year-existence.
TD Garden? Yep. The Fleet Center? Yep. Derek Jeter Center? Almost, believe it or not.
TD Garden, as it is known today, has gone through plenty of name changes. And at this point, it would be fair to ask yourself, “Why would Boston’s arena be named after Derek Jeter,” or “How has TD Garden had more names than years in existence?” Well…
Origins of TD Garden
The arena was built in 1995 as The Shawmut Center after the naming rights were sold to a Boston-area bank, Shawmut Bank. Shawmut had beaten out its rival, Fleet Bank, for naming rights and had just secured the name as construction got underway.
However, in a somewhat omen-like indication of how the arenas naming history would go, a name-change was forced before construction was completed. Just prior to completion, Shawmut Bank and Fleet Bank negotiated a secretive merging agreement – so secret that their marketing teams that had battled for the arena’s naming rights did not even know about it – and the two banks merged together. When the dust cleared, Fleet Bank absorbed Shawmut Bank, meaning the newly formed company was bidding against itself.
To make matters worse, every seat in the brand new arena had been stamped with a Shawmut logo, a company that no longer existed. As a result, each and every seat needed to be replaced before anybody even had the chance to sit in them. On top of that, the arena’s entire color scheme had to be altered. Finally, a ready-to-be-used FleetCenter emerged. What a start.
When FleetBoston Financial merged with Bank of America in 2004, the Fleet Center was set to change names once again. In January of 2005, Delaware North and the bank reached an agreement that released the bank from the final six years of its naming rights agreement. Thus, Delaware North was free to sell.
In early March of 2005, TD Banknorth announced that it had purchased the naming rights of the arena, priced at $6 million per year. However, the six month period before the arena adopted its new name has quite the story.
Derek Jeter Center
It wasn’t until July of 2005 that the arena took on its new name: TD Garden. However, from February to March, the arena was being advertised as “YourGarden”, as in – you could buy the naming rights for a day on eBay. We aren’t kidding.
Thirty sales were made from February 10 to March 13. The eBay auctions held by Delaware North earned a net-proceeds of more than $150,000, which was donated to charities in the area.
The “YourGarden” period had a variety of names that I’m sure nobody ever used – the KurtCenter, JoeyColinAbbyCenter, and yes, even Nocturnal Nannies Arena. Of the many proposed titles, only two names were reportedly rejected. One of those has a phenomenal story:
A Yankees fan and lawyer from New York City named Kerry Konrad won naming rights for March 1st off of a $2,325 bid. In honor of the New York Yankee’s legendary (and at the time, still active) shortstop, Konrad proposed his ideal name: “Derek Jeter Center“.
The Harvard graduate did this all in good fun as part of a long-lasting rivalry between Konrad and his former college roommate and Red Sox fan, Jerry Rappaport. However, there was no way that Boston’s arena was going to be named after a man in pinstripes. The name was rejected.
“We decided that all the names had to be rated G, and this name was determined to be obscene and vulgar,” said the former president and chief executive of the FleetCenter, per ESPN. “We were afraid of the volume of phone calls bogging down our switchboard, the number of e-mails clogging our portal and the potential graffiti on the side of our building.”
Of course, it was all in good fun.
“I had no idea that this joke would get so much attention in the first place,” Konrad said, per ESPN. “It was a joke. I’ve already had my laugh. But I could have made it much worse, like the A-Rod Center, Bucky Dent Center, the Aaron Boone Center, or the ‘Only 25 More [championships] To Go’ Center.”
“I got a lot of e-mails from Red Sox fans in Boston who tipped their cap to me. They left the back door open. I’m sure if [former Yankees owner] George Steinbrenner were foolish enough to auction off the naming rights to Yankee Stadium for a day, Red Sox fans would have thought of something clever.”
The two friends reached an agreement, and Rappaport ended up raising the bid by $6,275 to a total of $8,600 and earned the naming rights. That $8,600, of course, represented the 86 years during which the Red Sox suffered from the infamous “Curse of the Bambino.” Rappaport named the arena “New Boston Garden, Home of The Jimmy Fund Champions.” The money was donated to The Jimmy Fund.
After a merger with Commerce Bancorp in April of 2008, TD Banknorth became TD Bank, forming the grounds of it’s most recent name change.
And thus, TD Garden has its name – at least, for now. The current naming rights deal expires in 2025, and who’s to say what will happen then?