Tag: naming rights

Nordiques Rally Hockey

Quebec City’s hopes of landing an NHL team improve after council approves naming rights deal


While the former NHL market has a long way to go before it actually lands another NHL team, Tuesday marked a big day for hockey fans in Quebec City. The Vancouver Sun reports that the Quebec City council approved an agreement that will make Quebecor the naming rights holder for the pending $400 million, NHL-friendly arena. It’s important to note that the actual arena deal still needs to go through, but this is still a promising sign for the bill’s loudest proponents.

Quebecor will reportedly pay for the naming rights for at least 25 years, with the option of adding on 15 years after that. As we noted in a previous post, the media company will pay $63.5 million during that 25-year period if the NHL returns and $33 million if that dream dies. Quebecor’s rent would be $4.5 million with the NHL and $2.5 million if the building goes without an NHL team.

The plan specifies that the arena would be built by 2015, while the Vancouver Sun reveals that the stated goal is to attract an NHL team by 2020.

The gang at Orland Kurtenblog took a look at the controversy caused by the taxpayer-fueled arena deal. On one hand, you have critics like Graeme Hamilton who worry that the arena would host very little beyond pee wee hockey if the NHL doesn’t come calling, despite what Mayor Regis Labeaume called a “win-win” deal.

Mr. Labeaume has no time for those who suggest the project might be beyond the means of a province that cannot even maintain its basic infrastructure. “Our city and its citizens deserve a facility worthy of a capital city,” he said Tuesday. He said geological testing at the proposed site will begin this fall, and the project’s final budget will be known by March. The target date for completion is September 2015.

With no guarantee that the NHL will return to a market it abandoned with the 1995 departure of the Nordiques, the project represents a significant risk.  Four-hundred-million dollars would be a lot of money for two weeks of Pee-Wee hockey and some pop music concerts. But it seems that as long as the dream of an NHL returning to Quebec remains alive, no price is too steep.

Orland Kurtenblog counters that going without an NHL team might not necessarily be a death sentence for the new building.

Fair enough, and I’m the first to bristle at the thought of taxpayers subsidizing pro sports. But arenas can still pack ‘em in without a major-league sports tenant. In 2008, Winnipeg’s MTS Centre was the third-busiest facility in Canada. In 2010, Kansas City’s Sprint Centre was the third-busiest in the United States.

That’s not to say the only key to arena profitability is keeping the calendar full – you don’t want to be the liquidation store of arenas. “Yes, we do birthday parties.”

However, without an NHL team, a new building in Quebec City would host more than “two weeks of Pee-Wee hockey and some pop music concerts.”

That being said, many might judge such a high-risk investment as a failure if Quebec City cannot land an NHL team. It’ll be years – maybe even almost a decade – before we would be able to call say the proposed $400 million arena a blunder, with five years for the city to attract a team if the arena is built by 2015 as planned.

These are high stakes situations that are often controversial, especially when public money is being used (as it would be if everything goes through the system). A lot can change, but approving the naming rights deal is a big step in the right direction. That being said, they have a long road to travel before the Nordiques – or some other Quebec team with a different name – can return to the NHL.

Naming rights: Sabres will play in “First Niagara Center” next season

Philadelphia Flyers v Buffalo Sabres - Game Three
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The Buffalo Sabres are getting a new home. Well, sort of. More precisely, there’s a new name for their current home. Starting in the 2011-12 season, the HSBC Arena in Buffalo will now be called the First Niagara Center.

The name change gives the building its third name in 15 years. The building was called Marine Midland Arena when it originally opened in 1996. Three years later, the name changed to HSBC Arena in 1999—Marine Midland Bank was a subsidiary of HSBC. Today, the building gets yet another moniker.

From the Sabres official site:

“In connection with First Niagara Bank, N.A.’s acquisition of Upstate New York and Connecticut branches from HSBC Bank USA, N.A., the Buffalo-headquartered regional bank agreed to purchase the naming rights to HSBC Arena, the 18,690-seat home of the hockey club and Western New York’s premier sports and entertainment facility.

First Niagara will be the official bank of the Buffalo Sabres, deepening the company’s connections with its customers in the region as it strengthens its Upstate New York leadership through its previously announced HSBC-branch acquisition. First Niagara’s 15-year agreement with the Sabres also includes exclusive exterior facility naming rights, category exclusivity in the facility’s bowl, other interior and exterior signage and branding, exclusive on-site ATM presence, television and other value-added promotional benefits. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.”

The Sabres say that the naming rights sale wasn’t only about money. As has been his reputation since taking over the Sabres, the new owner wanted to make sure the new business partners were good people. He wanted to make sure this was a good deal for Buffalo, as well as the Sabres. Sabres President Ted Black spoke to WGR 550 in Buffalo about his conversation with Pegula:

“When I talked to Terry about this deal, his first question really wasn’t about money or sponsorship, it was ‘Terry, what kind of people are they?’ And I was certainly happy to let Terry know that John Koelmel and Dan Contera, the two folks I’ve been dealing with, and their teams are very much Buffalo people, very much like the Pegulas. As Terry would say, they’re our kind of people.”

Of course, it’s a little bit about money. The sale gives the team yet another infusion of money that it didn’t have 8 months ago. With Pegula’s billions and the millions acquired in the naming rights sale, the Sabres are quickly becoming one of the richer teams in the league. Gone are the days when the Sabres would watch talented players walk because they simply couldn’t afford to keep talent in Buffalo. Now, they have the deep pockets to compete with any market in the league.

The people over at First Niagara considered using “Auditorium” in the name in a nod to The Aud that housed the Sabres from 1970-1996. Unfortunately, the powers that be thought “First Niagara Center” rolled off the tongue better.

Yep, the Sabres’ F’N Center certainly rolls off the tongue a little better.

True North and MTS Allstream agree on 10-year naming rights deal for MTS Centre in Winnipeg

Winnipeg fans

It’s good to get in on the ground floor of a deal it seems.

True North and MTS Allstream, a telecom company based in Winnipeg, have carved out an agreement to continue with the naming rights for the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The deal is set to run through 2021 and while no financial figures were made available to the press for how much its worth, the impending arrival of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg where they’ll call the MTS Centre home drove up the cost for continuing with the deal. Given that MTS is a local company, the deal works out nicely for community relations as well as for deepening wallets.

The arena has been called the MTS Centre since it opened in 2004 and now with an NHL tenant about to call it home, MTS is about to get a lot more exposure thanks to the Thrashers moving into town. As for what the name of the team will be that will be calling the MTS Centre home, that’s still yet to be determined and the folks at True North are wavering on when that announcement will be made.

True North president Jim Ludlow had this to say about the impending announcement of what the Winnipeg hockey club will be called.

As for the new team’s name, Ludlow is no longer predicting it will come before Tuesday’s NHL board of governors meeting, where the sale of the Thrashers to True North is expected to be approved.

He’s not even predicting a name before the NHL draft next Friday.

“That’s tough — unlikely — possible, but there are a number of issues,” he said.

“We just have to manage our way through and, whether it’s next week or the following week, get to the point where we can make the right decision and the right announcement at the right time.”

That’s a lot of fretting going on.

One thing’s for sure, if the team doesn’t have a name by the time the NHL Draft kicks off next Friday night it might be a bit odd handing their first draft pick a sweater and cap with nothing on it. Of course, they could also just stop fiddling around and just call the team the Jets and be done with it.

That’s our not-so subtle hint for the day. At the very least, the building they’ll be playing in will have a name even if the team doesn’t have one yet.

Panthers sell rink naming rights to Lexus, team president wants ads on jerseys

Philadelphia Flyers v Florida Panthers

Advertising is pervasive in almost every level of sports (and life, really). To some extent, as a consumer society, we should be used to ads filtering through to unexpected places. Yet there are some “sacred cows” left in sports, including uniforms for most North American professional teams.

Whenever you see the seemingly limitless logos that adorn the sweaters worn by European hockey teams, it seems like a scary crystal ball for the future of the NHL.

The movement toward that future seems almost unstoppable, especially when you see stories like these. Not satisfied with playing at the BankAtlantic Center, the Florida Panthers now skate at the Lexus Rink at the BankAtlantic Center. What’s next: the Dasani Zamboni preparing the Lexus Rink at the BankAtlantic Center?

(Uh oh, I hope I didn’t plant a seed.)

The most interesting/horrifying thing about this story, though, is Panthers team president Michael Yormark’s comments about placing advertisements on NHL jerseys. Here’s what he told Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy.

“Obviously, the jerseys are the next great frontier, but obviously there needs to be a lot of thought that goes into it, in terms of how you want to market the jersey as it relates to sponsorship. I don’t think that we want to get close to what NASCAR has done. That’s not to say what they do is wrong, because it works within their sport and culture. I don’t think that works in the National Hockey League … but I do think there’s an opportunity for some branding on the jerseys. If you go to Europe, it’s pretty common.”

And it’s also overkill, looking very much like that NASCAR aesthetic.

“Absolutely, and I don’t think we want to go in that direction,” Yormark said in an interview last Friday. “But at some point, there will be a great debate about it, and at some point it may be strongly, strongly considered. And if it was, we’d take advantage of it.”

“The dollars that have been generated in European soccer with jersey sponsorships have been absolutely enormous,” he continued.

Obviously, such a move would create a tug-of-war between traditional owners/executives and more aggressive types. It’s hard to deny that sports are going in that direction, though.

For fans, it’s a bummer, although perhaps it’s about approach. Would logos on jerseys mean shorter commercial breaks? Cheaper tickets? Will there be any benefit at all?

Sadly, the answer is “probably not,” but such moves would make it a lot easier to digest. Yormark does make a good point in his comments to PD, remarking that it isn’t easy to be a losing team in a non-traditional market. Sometimes you have to be flexible and clever to make a buck in this situation, but hopefully the Panthers will turn back to Plan A again soon: winning.