SBJ/September 18 - 24, 2006/Facilities

Saint Louis University in naming talks for scaled-down arena

Saint Louis University officials are talking to a philanthropic donor and a corporation with St. Louis ties about acquiring permanent naming rights to the 10,600-seat basketball arena that the university started building in August.

“It could be either one,” said Jeff Fowler, the arena’s project manager and SLU’s associate vice president of marketing and communications.

The school is selling naming rights on its own right now but could hire an outside firm “if we exhaust the options we have,” Fowler said.

“We’re making sure we have a name on the building when it opens in March 2008,” says project manager and university executive Jeff Fowler.
“We know it’s a long process, but we’re making sure we have a name on the building when it opens in March 2008,” Fowler said.

Division I collegiate arena naming-rights deals range from Virginia Commonwealth’s Alltel Pavilion, $2 million over 10 years, to Fresno State’s SaveMart Center, $40 million over 20 years, according to SportsBusiness Journal research.

SLU will use private fundraising, arena revenue and $8 million in tax increment financing to pay for the $80.5 million project. Naming-rights income will help retire debt service, he said.

Third-party facility manager Global Spectrum signed a five-year contract to operate the arena and plans to book 90 to 100 event days annually, Fowler said. Men’s and women’s basketball accounts for 36 to 38 of those dates.

Front Row Marketing, Global Spectrum’s sister company, is studying how much the arena could generate in advertising revenue outside of naming rights. “We’re going to put that number against our projections to give us a better feel,” Fowler said.

The arena, designed by local firm Mackey Mitchell and Denver-based Sink Combs Dethlefs, originally was targeted for 13,000 seats. The architects designed the smaller, single-concourse facility after the initial cost “escalated to a point where we needed to relook at it,” Fowler said.

The new design includes a practice facility attached to the arena. SLU plans to sell naming rights to that space, he said.

The arena contains 12 suites along the sidelines, 660 club seats and the 300-capacity Billiken Club, a 7,125-square-foot restaurant that Global Spectrum will book for nonbasketball events.

Saint Louis University’s men’s team now plays at Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis, formerly Savvis Center.

The school selected Chartwells, a Compass Group subsidiary, for concessions and premium dining. It has yet to hire a ticketing vendor, Fowler said.

MAGIC NUMBER: Orlando Foodservice Partners and Levy Restaurants will retain the regular concessions and premium-dining contracts at TD Waterhouse Centre and Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium pending contract negotiations, said Allen Johnson, director for both buildings.

City officials recommended the existing operating team over Ovations Food Services, the other finalist. The fee-based contracts are three-year terms with two one-year options. The arena and the stadium generated $10.4 million in food revenue for fiscal 2005.

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

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