SBJ/October 31-November 6, 2011/Facilities

New Evansville venue packs three bank deals into one arena

Ford Center was set to open in Evansville, Ind., last weekend with three banks as founding partners inside the 11,000-seat arena.

VenuWorks, the firm managing the publicly owned arena, signed five-year naming-rights deals with Old National Bank for the suite level, German National Bank for club seats and Fifth Third Bank for the hospitality room.

Many arenas sign exclusive deals with one financial institution and include the building’s ATMs in the inventory. In this case, VenuWorks bought the money machines and stocks them with cash, said Scott Schoenike, Ford Center’s executive director.

“We decided not to offer [banking] exclusivity and instead sell good numbers to all of them, Schoenike said.

All three bank deals are valued at more than $100,000 annually in a media market of just over 1 million people spread over the southern tips of Indiana and Illinois and a portion of Kentucky.

The $127 million arena is home to University of Evansville men’s and women’s basketball and the Central Hockey League’s Evansville IceMen. The Purple Aces men’s team was scheduled to christen the building with an Oct. 29 exhibition.

The IceMen’s first game will be Saturday. The sports tenants account for 66 of the arena’s 130-plus event days planned during the first year of operation, Schoenike said.

The arena’s 21 suites and 95 loge seats are sold out. The suites cost $55,000 a year, include tickets to all events and seat eight to 20 people. The loge seats are $2,000 a seat and include tickets to basketball and hockey and first rights to purchase tickets for other events.

Ford signed a 15-year naming-rights deal for the arena itself with a total value of $6.8 million. VenuWorks sold all the sponsorships and premium seats. All told, that inventory generates more than $1.2 million annually, Schoenike said.

Ford’s deal is all cash, he said. In return, the automotive company gets the arena’s biggest suite, a 40-person unit, three exterior signs and scoreboard exposure.

In addition, three days before the Purple Aces’ exhibition, officials were developing a separate piece of activation for Ford revolving around a truck “crashing” through a wall in the south end, behind the stage for concerts. It’s a tricky job to complete, Schoenike said.

Coca-Cola holds Ford Center’s pouring rights. VenuWorks operates concessions in-house. TS Sports produced the scoreboard.

Iowa-based VenuWorks operates 11 arenas among its 40 facilities in secondary markets. Ford Center replaces Roberts Stadium, which opened in 1956.

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