SBJ/October 24 - 30, 2005/Facilities

After 6 years, Rochester title rights not settled

Paetec Communications has had its name attached to a professional soccer stadium proposed in Rochester, N.Y., for almost six years. When the stadium finally opens in May 2006, however, the venue’s naming rights could belong to another company.

Premier Partnerships of Los Angeles, which brokered the $30 million title sponsorship for Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, has signed a contract to sell sponsorships for Paetec Park. The marketer would be responsible for selling naming rights for the 20,000-seat soccer stadium, should Paetec or Frank DuRoss, owner of the building and its two sports tenants, opt out of the current agreement, DuRoss said.

Paetec, a local telecommunications firm, signed a 22-year, $13 million title sponsorship in December 1999 for the facility, where the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the United Soccer Leagues’ First Division and Major League Lacrosse’s Rochester Rattlers will begin play in June.

Paetec Park’s first phase is scheduled to be complete
in November, but talks over the naming rights may enter a
third phase because of opt-out provisions in the contract.
Paetec and DuRoss renegotiated the naming rights in October 2003 and reduced the terms to $2.1 million over seven years, after delays in public funds available for the project ultimately led to a decision to build a smaller stadium that could be expanded when more financing was secured.

Paetec made its first payment when the project broke ground in January 2004 and will resume payments when the stadium opens, DuRoss said.The new deal included an escape clause for both parties, regardless of when the stadium opens, provided one gives the other 90 days’ notice, DuRoss said. They could go back to the bargaining table for a third time.

“I’m very confident we can secure a deal more resembling the original naming rights than where we are today,” DuRoss said. “With all the events we plan to have, a full-blown stadium is back in the picture.”

David Mihalyov, Paetec’s communications manager, said, “We can’t comment on what may happen down the road.”

The HOK Sport-designed stadium’s first phase cost $27 million and should be completed in three weeks, DuRoss said. The facility will initially contain 12,750 fixed seats, 17 suites and 1,000 club seats, DuRoss said.

The second phase, pending state approval of $15 million to finance future construction, should start in mid-November and be done by May, he said. The number of permanent seats will increase to 20,000, and 23 more suites will be built.

Temporary seating for concerts could expand the building to more than 30,000, DuRoss said.

The Rhinos have commitments for 22 suites, ranging from $25,000 to $35,000 annually, for five, seven and 10 years. The team recently started selling club seats for $600 apiece and had sold about 100 in the first few days, DuRoss said.

FEY-GONE CONCLUSION: Alan Fey has left AEG Merchandising in Los Angeles to form a new company, XP Events LLC, and the firm has signed five-year contracts to operate team stores and souvenir stands for the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks at America West Arena and Chase Field.

Fey, son of longtime Denver concert promoter Barry Fey, spent five years at AEG and worked previously for Orca Bay Sports and Entertainment in Vancouver, the Denver Nuggets and the NBA.

Jeff Newman, Alan Fey’s business partner at XP Events, used to work for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

XP Events’ parent company is XP Cos. of Denver, a consumer products firm that has an events division, Alan Fey said. XP Cos. owner Tripp Wall is a third partner in the merchandise venture.

“I’ve followed Alan’s career for a long time dating back to when he worked for the NBA,” said Rick Welts, Suns president and former president of NBA Properties. “He had the highest-grossing store in the league at Staples Center and did a bang-up job for the Angels.”

AEG Merchandising has contracts with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Charlotte Bobcats and RFK Stadium, in addition to AEG-owned Staples Center.

AEG, meanwhile, is restructuring its retail division and advertising for a vice president to replace Fey and manage the business, said Michael Roth, AEG’s VP of communications.

TROPICAL FIGURES: Levy Restaurants posted a $9.25 food and drink per cap and Event Merchandising Inc. reported a $2.25 retail per cap for the Memphis Grizzlies-Miami Heat preseason game at Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan, said Dale Adams, manager of the SMG-operated facility.

Paid attendance was 16,113 for the Oct. 14 game, said Alberto Perez, the local promoter who staged it.

Event officials had expected a sellout crowd of 18,000. However, local NBA fans balked at buying the $175 seats behind the baskets in the lower bowl, Perez said. “That price was a little high,” he said.

Tickets ranged from $40 in the upper deck to $250 for courtside seats.

The merchandise per cap wasn’t the $4 to $5 EMI had anticipated, acknowledged Jeff Simpson, the firm’s Charlotte-based representative. The vendor sold out of miniature basketballs and youth-size T-shirts, and 40 percent of EMI’s sales were children’s products, he said.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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