MTS gambles on new revenue source

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) passengers can’t play slots, Poker or Bingo aboard the San Diego Trolley (well, maybe on their mobile devices). However, the LRT line that can get them to an area gambling casino—the Green Line—will be carrying that establishment’s name.

MTA and Sycuan Casino, described by its owner, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, as a “community landmark,” have entered into a naming rights agreement under which the Green Line will be renamed the Sycuan Green Line. The MTS Board of Directors approved the agreement unanimously at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 19.

MTS said the naming rights agreement will generate up to $25.5 million in non-fare revenue for MTS operations over a term of up to 30 years. In addition to naming rights, the agreement also allows Sycuan to operate bus shuttles to the Sycuan Casino from select MTS Transit Centers: Santee, El Cajon, Grantville and 12th & Imperial. Sycuan will also receive the right to name three MTS stations.

Sycuan Casino has also started construction on a 12-story, 300-room hotel complete with pools, restaurants, meeting rooms, gardens and a lazy river. It is scheduled to open in early 2019.

This is the second major naming rights agreement for MTS. University of California San Diego Health and UC San Diego are in the third year of a 30-year naming rights agreement for the UC San Diego Blue Line. MTS said the agency will continue to seek naming rights partners for the Orange Line and individual stations.

The Sycuan Green Line is almost 24 miles long and serves San Diego State University, SDCCU Stadium, Mission Valley, Hazard Center, Fashion Valley, Old Town, Seaport Village, the Convention Center, the Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park. Additionally, it serves 27 stations in the cities of Santee, El Cajon, La Mesa and San Diego, and has high visibility along Interstate 8.

“MTS has been one of the nation’s leaders in securing new sources of revenue to support our operations,” said MTA CEO Paul Jablonski. “The Sycuan Green Line agreement will be a sustainable revenue source that will be used exclusively to help maintain our level of service throughout San Diego. We are excited to have a naming rights partner that shares our mission to get people off our roads and provide a transportation alternative. This agreement helps the entire region achieve its climate action goals.”

“This agreement furthers our commitment to invest in organizations that serve the entire San Diego community,” said Cody Martinez, Chairman, Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. “We are excited for the public to take advantage of the MTS transportation network to be able to access all of our current casino and future resort amenities.”

The Superlative Group, based in Cleveland, Ohio, is the naming rights consultant for MTS.

Editor’s note: The Division of Behavioral Medicine and Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California San Diego Health, specifically, the Health Behavior Science Track for the UCSD/SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health, conducts important research in destructive addictive behaviors, among which is gambling. We find it rather ironic that the MTS is entering into a Green Line naming rights agreement with an establishment that enables this addictive behavior, while its Blue Line carries the name of a distinguished center of higher education that offers advanced degree programs for those who wish to dedicate their lives to helping people with addictions. Interestingly (and also ironic) is that the sports arena on the SDSU campus is the Viejas Arena.Viejas is another local Native American gaming enterprise. We also wish to note that in the MTS press release announcing the agreement, the word “gambling” does not appear. We thought we’d correct the oversight and call it like it is. –William C. Vantuono

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