July 12, 2013

For sale: Naming rights to Portland arena

With millions of dollars at stake, the Cumberland County Civic Center hires a firm to find a corporate sponsor 'who is trying to make a statement' in the Portland market.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Cumberland County Civic Center has hired a unit of Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. to market the naming rights, corporate sponsorships and premium seating for the renovated arena.

click image to enlarge

This artist conception, an overlay on a photo of the present Cumberland County Civic Center, shows the what the southeast corner of the building will eventually look like. Front Row Marketing Services will sell the naming rights, corporate sponsorships and premium seating in the renovated Portland venue.

Provided photo

click image to enlarge

Front Row Marketing Services will sell the naming rights, corporate sponsorships and premium seating in the renovated Portland venue.

The firm, Front Row Marketing Services, was previously the sales arm of the Portland Pirates hockey team and secured the naming rights for the new Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Cross Insurance agreed to pay $3 million for naming rights for 15 years for the 5,800-seat arena.

"Front Row's outstanding reputation for providing creative and effective partnership packages and attractive hospitality options, together with their emphasis on relationship-building, made them the clear choice," Civic Center Board Chairman Neal Pratt said in a statement.

The arena is currently undergoing a renovation -- estimated to cost up to $33 million -- that is due to be completed in early 2014. The Civic Center has concert seating capacity of about 8,000. In addition to concerts, the Civic Center also hosts Portland Pirates hockey games and other events.

"The Cumberland County Civic Center has been a key regional asset for 35 years, and the major improvements we're making will only enhance its ability to serve the community as an economic and cultural centerpiece for many years to come," Pratt said.

"The naming rights benefits ... will provide the right business with tremendous exposure and opportunity."

Pratt did not return calls seeking comment on how many companies bid for the contract or the value of the contract with Front Row Marketing.

Selling the naming rights could be lucrative for the Civic Center, based on prices paid for naming rights to other venues. The prices paid for branding rights varies depending on the size of the city, the seating capacity of the venue and its sports or concert attractions.

For example, Verizon Wireless in 2001 bought the naming rights to the sports and music arena in Manchester, N.H., for $11.4 million for 15 years. That venue has concert seating of 11,700. Androscoggin Bank paid more than $690,000 for 10-year naming rights for the Colisee in Lewiston, which seats roughly 3,600 for sports events.

Bigger markets and big-league sports fetch massive numbers: The TD Garden in Boston, which has a capacity of 20,000, has a $120 million, 20-year deal, while Citigroup Inc. paid $400 million for 20-year rights to the New York Mets stadium, which has a capacity of 41,800.

"It's a great opportunity for the right company -- we urged adoption of naming rights as part of our support for the (Civic Center) expansion. I'm sure they'll find a good corporate partner and strike a deal that benefits everyone involved," said Chris Hall, chief executive of the Portland Regional Chamber.

Finding the right company to buy the naming rights may be a challenge since Portland does not attract the same national media exposure as bigger cities, said Patrick McGee, president of ProVentures, a sports and entertainment marketing firm in Alexandria, Va.

"Determining a valuation can be very difficult. You would have to think about who is trying to make a statement in that market? Is there goodwill to be gained in the community? It's not just about pure return on investment," McGee sad. "It's up to the creativity of the people selling the naming rights to find the right connection. It's more than selling some good seats and putting a corporate name on a building."

Front Row Marketing did not return calls seeking comment on which companies it would contact about naming rights or the size of the bids it hoped to get.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com

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