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Memorial Coliseum seeking big naming-rights payday

Tribute to veterans will remain, but 10-year arena sponsorship yours for $3.5M

Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 9:34 am

In a deal that could surpass the $3 million agreement made for Fort Wayne's new downtown baseball stadium five years ago, the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum is considering selling naming rights for its arena.

Such a proposal has been considered for years, with Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown telling the County Commissioners in 2009 that naming rights for the arena could generate $300,000 annually. Brown said at the time, however, that the complex, parts of which opened in 1952 as a tribute to the county's veterans, would always remain the “Memorial Coliseum” as a tribute to the local residents who fought and died in defense of their country.

But now a “confidential” proposal prepared by the Coliseum – a copy of which was obtained by The News-Sentinel – offers naming rights to the arena for $350,000 per year for 10 years – a total of $3.5 million, or $500,000 more than Parkview Health paid in 2008 for a decade's worth of publicity at the field that now bears its name. A 15-year commitment to the Coliseum could be had for $335,000 per year, at a total cost of $5.025 million.

The Coliseum's presentation states that the system for determining the value of sponsorships was developed by IEG, a leading independent sponsorship analyst that has worked with more than 800 clients on nearly 1,500 properties worldwide. And the proposal is a good deal, the literature suggests, with total tangible and intangible benefits of the sponsorship worth $458,740 per year.

In addition to naming rights for the arena, sponsors would also receive mention in publications, marketing and interior signs, advertising at the top of the scoreboard, employee benefits and other opportunities. Exterior signs would be at the sponsor's expense.

The proposal points out that the Coliseum has hosted at least 1 million visitors for 22 consecutive years and is passed by more than 50,000 vehicles per day on Coliseum Boulevard and Parnell Avenue.

In 2009, Brown explained that, as operational costs increase, income from naming rights could help the Coliseum “stay off the (property) tax rolls to the citizens of Allen County.” In June, Brown said the Coliseum's 2012 net income of $46,000 would be difficult to maintain because of the rising cost of employee health care and recent attendance decreases for the Komets and other tenants. That's one reason the cost of parking at the county-owned facility increased from $4 to $5 this month.

At least one potential sponsor has already declined. In a statement, Lutheran Health Network spokesman Geoff Thomas said the company "has reviewed the proposal for naming rights and determined that pursuing this type of opportunity would be inconsistent with our healthcare mission. Although we strongly support the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum and those who have served our country, this initiative fails to mesh with our priority to deliver quality healthcare while being good stewards of healthcare resources.”

The Coliseum is also reportedly considering naming-rights deals for the two large food courts now under construction as part of a $4 million renovation that will also modernize restrooms on the main concourse. Those renovations are expected to be completed next month.