SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Facilities

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  • Florida Atlantic hopes to get naming deal ‘over the hump’

    Don Muret
    Florida Atlantic University officials hope to announce a naming-rights deal soon for the school’s new 30,000-seat football stadium opening in mid-October, according to Athletic Director Craig Angelos.

    Put an asterisk at the end of that sentence, though. Angelos has traveled down this road before, only to be left at the altar on more than one occasion during the early stages of the stadium’s development. Closing a naming-rights deal has been a struggle for FAU, a Sun Belt Conference school entering its 11th year playing football and seventh year at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

    This time, FAU is in advanced negotiations with a company in the automotive category, a business Angelos refused to identify until a deal is done. It is not the South Florida Ford Dealers, an existing FAU corporate partner, he said.

    Earlier in the stadium’s development, “We talked to a variety of people and got to a certain plateau before things broke down,” Angelos said last week. “This one has gone a little further and we need to get over the hump. It doesn’t seem that complicated with this vendor, and we hope to have an answer this week.”

    To this point, FAU has marketed stadium naming rights in-house, but that could change if the current talks break down, Angelos said.

    In July, the school issued a proposal for a consultant to broker naming rights for the new building, expected to play host to high school football games and pro soccer in addition to four to six Owls home games every fall. CSL Marketing Group is one company competing for the job, confirmed Bill Rhoda, a CSL principal. Just recently, CSL teamed with Premier Partnerships to sell naming rights to Apogee for the University of North Texas’ new stadium. Apogee, a campus networking firm, signed a 20-year deal valued at $20 million. (For more details on the FAU and North Texas stadiums, see Page 22).

    Three years ago, FAU thought it had a deal in place with RBC Bank to put its name on the new facility. The recession played a big part in killing that deal, also valued at $20 million. Previously, the school was in serious talks with Commerce Bank to buy naming rights. Then its chairman left, TD Bank Financial Group of Canada bought Commerce Bank in October 2007 and that deal fell through, Angelos said. Before that, FAU failed to get a naming-rights deal done with ADT Security Services, whose headquarters is in Boca Raton, where FAU is.

    As it stands, what is officially known as FAU Stadium will open Oct. 15 when the Owls play Western Kentucky.

    One selling point for a potential naming-rights partner is that the facility can be seen from Interstate 95 in an area near FAU where 189,000 vehicles pass every day, according to the consultant RFP.

    PENN STATE INTERCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS
    A rendering shows how the new Diamond Vision center-hung scoreboard at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center will tie in with courtside signs and ribbon boards installed by ANC Sports.
    PENN STATION:
    The partnership of software firm ANC Sports and scoreboard maker Mitsubishi Electric is producing new Diamond Vision video screen systems at two Pennsylvania college arenas, Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center and Penn’s historic Palestra in Philadelphia.

    At Penn State, the two vendors teamed to win the job to manufacture a $1.2 million center-hung scoreboard to replace an original board that had been upgraded since the arena opened 15 years ago.

    The new board, about 12 feet high and 16 feet wide, has four video screens taller and wider than the old unit’s displays, said Greg Myford, Penn State’s associate athletic director of business relations and communications.

    The new center-hung board will tie into new digital courtside signs and the LED ribbon boards ANC Sports installed in 2008 to form one unified message for arena advertisers, something new for the facility.

    The upgrades should produce additional revenue, Myford said. Learfield Sports, Penn State’s multimedia rights holder, has made it a priority to inform the Big Ten school’s partners of the upgrades and is pitching the technology to potential advertisers, he said.

    The new center-hung board will be installed in time for basketball season. The Nittany Lions men’s team plays its first two regular-season home games Nov. 14 and Nov. 16, against Radford and Long Island, as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

    Next year, Penn State will replace the two big video boards at Beaver Stadium. It is developing a budget before issuing proposals to vendors. The plan is to fit those new screens within the framework of the existing boards, Myford said.

    Barton Malow, the builder tied to previous Beaver Stadium improvements, is working with the school on the engineering portion of that video board project, said Len Moser, a Barton Malow vice president.

    In Philly, ANC and Mitsubishi are installing new video displays at both ends of the 84-year-old Palestra in the same position as the current scoreboards.

    DIAMOND CLUB: Shaun Rachau did not have to go far to find his first client after leaving the Arizona Diamondbacks at the All-Star break.

    Rachau, the club’s vice president of communications for six years, resigned his position in mid-July to start his own public relations and marketing firm in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks then hired Rachau to handle PR for the 10-year anniversary of their 2001 World Series title.

    The celebration, Sept. 9-11 at Chase Field, will have players from the 2001 Diamondbacks club on hand, and the team’s nonprofit foundation will give away an authentic World Series player’s ring made from the same mold used for the original rings.

    Separately, Rachau recently signed Sports USA Radio Network as his second client. The network owns the national syndication rights to NFL and college football broadcasts and recently signed a deal for “The Joe Morgan Show,” a one-hour program featuring the baseball hall of famer that airs Monday through Friday.

    Before the Diamondbacks, Rachau worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers for eight years and the San Diego Padres for one season. He also worked for home builder KB Home, where he first met Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall. They worked together at the Dodgers before both left for Arizona.

    Rachau said he left baseball’s grind after 15 years to strike a better “work-life balance” with his wife and 3 1/2-year-old son.

    NEW COUNTRY: The Kenny Chesney concert at New Meadowlands Stadium this month generated $5,058,534 in gross ticket sales from a sellout crowd of 55,239, the biggest country show ever in the region, according to Mark Lamping, the facility’s president and CEO.

    The joint venture operating the stadium for the NFL Jets and Giants promoted the show, a first for the group, and the risk paid off. It was the first country concert in 28 years at an NFL stadium in New Jersey, and country music fans can now expect more of those events in the future, Lamping said.

    The Jets and Giants do not have to share their portion of concert revenue with other NFL teams.

    Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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  • MainGate signed to sell Big Ten title game gear

    The Big Ten Conference has signed sports retail vendor MainGate to an exclusive five-year contract to sell merchandise for its football championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    MainGate’s deal also covers the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for four years starting with the 2012-13 season. Conference officials bundled the three events when they sent a proposal to merchandise vendors competing for the job.

    Football, however, is the key piece of this deal. The Big Ten’s inaugural football title game, set for Dec. 3, sold out quickly, and with a crowd of 68,000 expected, the revenue potential for retail surrounding the event tops $1 million, according to industry sources.

    “We think it will be one of the largest collegiate events out there,” said John Mybeck, chief operating officer of Strategic Marketing Affiliates, the Big Ten’s licensing agency. “If we have the right two teams, it could be monstrous.”

    MainGate, based in Indianapolis, operates team stores for five NFL teams, including the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. It also runs the merchandise at the NCAA Hall of Champions in its hometown.

    The terms of the deal allow MainGate to sell Big Ten title game merchandise at 15 locations inside the stadium and next door at the Indiana Convention Center, where the Big Ten will stage its fan festival. In addition, MainGate will sell items at host hotels and its 3,000-square-foot Colts Pro Shop at the Circle Centre Mall downtown near the stadium. Separately, the vendor is negotiating a deal to sell Big Ten football championship merchandise at Indianapolis International Airport. No deal is signed yet for the airport, said Dave Moroknek, MainGate’s president and CEO.

    As a licensee, MainGate can produce Big Ten championship apparel in addition to selling it, Mybeck said. There are some restrictions, and the details of what items MainGate can manufacture are still being worked out, he said.

    Overall, the Big Ten has 30 full-time licensees. Top of the World, a Norman, Okla., company, and Blue 84, a firm in Detroit Lakes, Minn., own the exclusive rights to produce the official locker room championship hats and T-shirts, respectively, to be worn by the winning team at Lucas Oil Stadium. Those two suppliers are entering the second year of those deals for all Big Ten title events, said Brad Traviolia, the conference’s deputy commissioner.

    For MainGate, the Big Ten deal is its first with a college entity other than its operation at the NCAA headquarters. The company will get additional exposure during college football season selling merchandise for the Army-Navy and Notre Dame-Maryland games at FedEx Field, where MainGate runs the NFL Redskins’ retail. The firm’s other NFL stadium accounts are at Ford Field in Detroit, the Metrodome in Minneapolis and LP Field in Nashville.

    MainGate operates online merchandise business for the Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Rams and has deals in the NBA, NHL, WNBA, pro lacrosse, auto racing and golf. The company got its start with the NHRA in 1963.

    “From our standpoint, this is a great step forward in the college marketplace,” Moroknek said. “We have been holding back [in that space] until now because we are developing such a great niche in the NFL. We didn’t want to give up that momentum.”

    MainGate’s presence at Lucas Oil Stadium was definitely a factor in the firm winning the Big Ten’s business, but conference officials were impressed with the company’s approach to product displays and customer service, Traviolia said.

    For the Big Ten basketball tournaments, MainGate will operate retail in 2012 at Conseco Fieldhouse, where both events will be played, and in 2013 at two sites, with the men playing at United Center in Chicago and the women at Sears Centre Arena in suburban Chicago. Those events will alternate between Indianapolis and Chicago through 2016.

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