SBJ/20080714/This Week's News

Designers loading Louisville arena with sponsor opportunities

Louisville’s new college basketball arena, a facility with more hospitality areas than many NBA arenas, should have no problem generating the millions in sponsor revenue required to help pay for the $249 million building, an official says.

Louisville Arena Authority Chairman Jim Host thinks the 22,500-seat downtown arena will go well beyond the $179 million in sponsor and advertiser revenue over the next 30 years that the authority’s business plan calls for to meet debt obligations. That number does not include the $37 million the authority is targeting for arena naming rights.

Host says he bases that assumption on the tremendous interest from local and regional companies eager to display their brands in more than 20 sponsor-ready spaces.

HOK Sport recently unveiled design details that identify 11 bars and lounges, including four rooms reserved for the University of Louisville’s biggest donors, all prime candidates for sponsorship, said Steve Hotujac and Brian Mirakian, the two designers principally involved in the project.

“This building has more premium bars than any professional arena, in part because of the quantity needed to satisfy donor demand,” said Hotujac, involved in the development of 10 new and renovated NBA and NHL facilities.

In addition, there are potentially 10 more arena spaces that HOK’s theming consultant Workshop Design is developing into interactive areas, including a 75-foot-deep sponsor zone off the main concourse, Host said.

Among the naming opportunities is a
plaza planned in front of the
main entrance.

The authority expects to announce the arena’s first corporate partners in the next few weeks after the site has been cleared and construction begins in earnest in August, Host said.

Initial sponsors could include companies representing the region’s rich history in the whiskey and bourbon business, based on HOK’s renderings for the two 4,000-square-foot event-level clubs.

The architect’s thumbnails for those premium areas, each serving 1,000 club-seat holders on the arena’s east and west sides, contain images of Kentucky bourbon distilleries. The clubs’ low-level lighting and rich oak finishes bring to mind the whiskey aging process in century-old cellars.

The Power Plant, one of two public bars on the main concourse, initially named for the old Louisville Gas & Electric facility on site, has an open view to the bowl. It’s an “ESPN Zone-type environment” that should entice another major sponsor, Hotujac said.

Outside the arena, the acre-and-a-half plaza in front of the main entrance and the 760-space underground parking garage present other substantial naming opportunities, Host said.

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