SBJ/June 15 - 21, 1998/This Weeks Issue

Ameritech answers Pacers' call with $5M

Three weeks after signing Conseco Inc. to an estimated $95 million naming-rights deal for their new field house-style arena, the Indiana Pacers are set to enter another major sponsorship package — this time with Chicago-based Ameritech Inc.

The telecommunications giant, which is being bought out by Texas-based SBC Communications Corp. for $64 billion, will sign an estimated $5 million deal with the Pacers that includes a radio and television package, signage rights, merchandising and a luxury suite. The deal gives Ameritech another major presence in the NBA. The company is in the middle of an even larger sponsorship deal at Chicago's United Center.

"We're in the last stages of negotiations with the Pacers," said Brian Fitzgerald, Ameritech's director of external affairs. "The Pacers are the most visible franchise in the state, and we believe the [new arena] will be quickly recognized as the premier facility in the country."

Fitzgerald wouldn't disclose the terms of the expected five-year deal.

For the Pacers, landing Ameritech is part of an aggressive sponsorship strategy that officials said will add at least $20 million a year to team revenue.

In addition to the Conseco and Ameritech deals, the Pacers signed three other companies to multiyear sponsorships.

"We're close on a number of others," said David Kahn, the Pacers' assistant general manager. "We're not doing deals for less than five years, and most deals range between five and 10 years."

The 18,500-seat arena is the NBA's first foray into the retro style that has proved so popular — and profitable — in Major League Baseball.

The Pacers' new home, scheduled to open next fall, aims to replicate the ambiance of field house facilities so prevalent throughout Indiana basketball history. The new arena will have 2,400 club seats and 69 luxury suites that will cost $89,500 to $174,500 annually. Also, to pump up revenue, it may have up to 75 corporate sponsors.

"We're making a push to have 75," Kahn said. "We'll do as much as we can without abusing what the feel and the theme of the building will be."

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