The subway station that serves Citizens Bank Park, the Wachovia Center, and Lincoln Financial Field will get its own commercial name soon.
The change dumps the name of a former Philadelphia lawyer and Democratic governor of Pennsylvania in favor of a phone company.
The SEPTA board of directors Thursday approved changing the name of Pattison Station to AT&T Station, in a deal valued at $5.44 million. The station is the southernmost stop on the Broad Street subway, serving the stadiums that host Philadelphia's major sports teams and many concerts.
Cash-strapped SEPTA will get $3.4 million over the five years of the deal, and its advertising agent, New York-based Titan Worldwide, will get $2 million. Titan will pay for the costs of changing signs and reprinting schedules with the new name.
The signs will be changed in a matter of weeks.
AT&T, which provides cellular service in the city's subways, said the station-naming would promote its brand and remind riders that "AT&T is all about helping customers mobilize everything to stay connected to who and what they need most - and in Philadelphia, that means sports."
Jerry Silverman, a retired Philadelphia math teacher who is a former chair of SEPTA's citizen advisory committee, complained to the board Thursday that "transit is a public service, and names provide an important connection to surrounding streets or neighborhoods. Taxpayers foot the majority of the bill and shouldn't be overwhelmed by ads providing minimal extra revenues."
Silverman wondered where the naming trend might lead. He said that "instead of riding the Broad Street subway from City Hall to Pattison, people might soon take the Coca-Cola Line from Pizza Hut to AT&T."
SEPTA officials said other naming deals might be struck. The agency, which gets most of its funding from state and local governments, is ending its fiscal year this month with a $26 million deficit, forcing it to dip into cash reserves.
The board Thursday approved transferring $26 million from the agency's "service stabilization fund" to cover the deficit in the $1.13 billion operating budget.
SEPTA general manager Joseph Casey said the subway station-naming deal would allow SEPTA to "help defray costs to customers and taxpayers."
SEPTA should use the extra money to reduce fare hikes of 6 to 9 percent that are to take effect July 1, said Scott Maits, vice president of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers.
The station, like the street above it, was originally named after Robert E. Pattison, a Philadelphia lawyer who served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1883 to 1887 and from 1891 to 1895. Between terms, he served as president of the Chestnut Street National Bank, and in 1887, he was named chairman of the U.S. Pacific Railway Commission.
Pattison, the son of a Methodist Episcopalian minister, was the only Democrat to be elected governor of the state between the Civil War and 1935.
He died on Aug. 1, 1904, and was buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd.