The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Imagine sailing into Bainbridge Island on the ferry Starbucks.
Or landing in Kingston with “Microsoft” emblazoned across the ferry hull.
With Washington State Ferries facing a multimillion-dollar deficit, the idea of selling naming rights to the fleet of 28 ferries is gaining steam.
The state Transportation Commission, under direction from the Legislature, hired consultant TB-Rogstad Consulting to study the naming issue.
It plans to release a report in about a month.
The state isn’t necessarily thinking about renaming the ferries but might look at ferry sponsorship, said Traci Brewer-Rogstad of TB-Rogstad Consulting.
Perhaps a Starbucks logo could be painted on a ferry’s smokestack, or another company’s name might be affixed next to the name of the ferry itself — the ferry Hiyu powered by Verizon, for example.
“We’re doing research on potential revenue that could be earned by selling naming rights, and the branding challenges that would face,” said Brewer-Rogstad.
She was deputy director of the ferry system until she left last year.
Her business partner, Jayne Davis-Russell, was regional operations manager for the ferry system.
Two years ago, the state hired an advertising company to sell ads on the state ferries, the first time the system turned to advertising to supplement the cash-starved fleet.
State law says the Transportation Commission can rename transportation facilities, but Brewer-Rogstad said renaming or branding ferries would be a legislative decision.
Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said she supports looking into the naming issue.
“I don’t think there should be a Pepsi boat,” she said.
“But everything needs to be on the table.
“There are several tribes that would like boats named after them.
“We ought to look at it.”
Ferry director David Moseley told the Joint Transportation Committee last week that the ferry system is looking at a $134 million operating-fund gap and a $954 million capital-fund gap over the next 16 years.
$3 billion gap
Because of the need to replace old ferries, he said, the 22-year gap is about $3 billion.
“We are interested in any revenue we can achieve,” said Moseley of the naming suggestion.
He said with a new 64-car boat under construction, the naming issue needs to be resolved soon.
Bob Distler, member of the state Transportation Commission, said rather than selling naming rights, he envisions ferries being sponsored by a company, such as the ferry Tulalip sponsored by Microsoft, for example.
“There’s too much iconic feelings about ferries. I don’t want to see wrapped boats,” said Distler, referring to buses that are wrapped in advertising.
Whatever the decision, a new bill says Native American tribes must be involved in any naming decision regarding ferries.Most of the state’s ferries now carry tribal names.