Is it time to sell Washington ferry naming rights to raise money?

Oct 26, 2021, 4:59 AM
ferry, Washington ferries...
A Washington State ferry pulls up to the dock in Edmonds, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

We know the state ferries don’t have the money or the staff to run their full operations. Those are a few of the reasons why the ferry system is currently on a reduced sailing schedule.

Gov. Inslee hopes state lawmakers will ‘be more attentive’ to ferry system’s needs

But is it time to think way outside the box to fund the system?

Naming rights.

You read that correctly: naming rights. We have Climate Pledge Arena, Lumen Field, and T-Mobile Park. Why not sell the naming rights to the boats or the ferry terminals to generate some extra money? Seeing a ferry wrapped in T-Mobile pink advertising or Bobby Wagner’s face for Beacon Plumbing would certainly be eye-catching.

There is already growing advertising on the boats and the terminals. So why not?

Before you call me crazy, this idea came up at the San Juan Ferry Advisory Council meeting last week. And believe me, the people living on the islands are about ready to look at any funding that would give them reliable service to the mainland.

“We have these billionaires having stadiums named after them, and they pay millions to go up in space for 10 minutes,” islander Steve suggested at the meeting. “Get some salesperson or advertising person to start hitting up companies like Amazon to name the ferry after your child or name the ferry after your company.”

Don’t dismiss the idea so quickly. The government relations director for the state ferry system, John Vezina, said it’s been talked about, albeit briefly.

“We have looked at advertising and wrapping the boats,” he told the virtual meeting. “There are companies who are willing to pay a lot of money to wrap the boats in their logo or some sort of advertising.”

But Steve wasn’t just talking about wrapping the boats in advertising. He is looking for a more substantial investment.

“I’m thinking bigger than that,” he said. “Have them buy a boat. Buy a boat and name it after them or name it after their kid.”

The Legislature has barely funded one new hybrid Olympic class ferry boat, but they have ordered five.

Would it be so alarming to catch the “John Curley” ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, if it meant speeding up the building of new boats and putting money into the ferry system in general?

With WA state’s ferries in a ‘critical situation,’ solutions are months, years to come

Vezina said there would certainly be pushback to any of this.

“Others get upset because it sort of takes away this iconic thing, but if someone would pay a million dollars a year,” he said it might be hard to turn down.

And there is no talk of taking away the names of the current boats.

Aesthetics or dollars and reliable service? Where do you come down?

As for that new Olympic class ferry, it still doesn’t have a name, but Debbie Young of the Washington State Transportation Commission said there have been suggestions.

“We got several hundred replies, among which were ‘Always Late,’ and ‘Never On Time,’ and ‘Boaty McBoatface.’ None of those actually rose to the level of passing the hurdles of an application,” she said.

There are 19 names still in the running.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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Is it time to sell Washington ferry naming rights to raise money?