Published Date Written by David CarkhuffA marketing firm that specializes in selling naming rights for arenas, including the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston where the Portland Pirates will play this fall, has been hired to help with the process of exploring naming rights for the Cumberland County Civic Center, according to Civic Center Board Chairman Neal Pratt.
Discussion of naming rights for the Civic Center is among the agenda items for a special meeting of the Civic Center Board of Trustees on Wednesday morning.
Front Row Marketing of Portland, a subsidiary of the Philadelphia-based Comcast-Spectacor, was hired recently to help with the process of finding a company or entity that can pay for naming rights to the Civic Center as well as the task of developing an “advertising inventory of the facility,” Pratt said. The inventory covers a range of money-making possibilities, whether it’s signs on walls or event advertising imprinted in the arena ice itself, Pratt said.
Following a request for proposals, officials interviewed two or three companies and selected Front Row, Pratt said. According to Front Row’s website, “Front Row Marketing Services is a leader in valuing, soliciting, and negotiating naming rights for an assortment of clients worldwide.” One of the “recent successes” noted on its website is the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.
Pratt said Front Row can guide the Civic Center board in properly valuing the newly restored Civic Center, once the facility reopens, tentatively next January.
“One of the reasons Front Row is so appealing, they know this business. ... The last thing we would ever want to do is undervalue that inventory,” Pratt said.
Previously, the Civic Center was under a naming rights stipulation that stated the name would not be anything other than the Cumberland County Civic Center, Pratt explained. After that agreement expired, managers looked at naming rights, but due to the pending renovation, they postponed a decision.
“We decided to wait, and now consistent with that plan ... they can do a much better value analysis,” Pratt said.
Also on the agenda is discussion, in closed executive session, of a new lease agreement with the Portland Pirates.
In mid-April, the Civic Center board voted 6-3 to move forward with a five-year lease with the Portland Pirates hockey organization, ending months of negotiations. In one of the major provisions of the new lease, 57.5 percent of the net concessions revenue from Portland Pirates events will go to the Pirates, the two sides explained.
Yet the actual lease document has not been formally approved, Pratt explained, so the board hopes to officially sign off on the new lease.
A five-year lease with a mutual option for five more was hailed in April by Brian Petrovek, managing owner/CEO of the Pirates, as “an opportunity to turn a page.” Petrovek had noted hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue to the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, because the Pirates organization was waiting on a new lease and wasn’t able to sell tickets for next season.
Now, the Pirates are marketing tickets for next season. The Portland Pirates hockey team is selling tickets for games played at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée, a temporary site while the voter-approved, $33 million Civic Center renovation is finished; and then for games to be played at the newly renovated Civic Center itself.
Technically, however, the new lease isn’t in effect.
“They are still reviewing the draft that we provided them,” Pratt said of the Pirates, saying the document was sent to the hockey organization for two or three weeks of review. Noting the “complicated commercial lease situation,” the document wasn’t something that could be whipped up overnight, he said.
“It took a while after we approved the terms to get the draft completed by our legal staff,” Pratt said.
If the lease document doesn’t come back in time for Wednesday’s meeting, the Civic Center board will postpone this item, he said.
“My hope is any thoughts that they have will be form over substance,” he said of the Pirates’ legal review.
Finally, the Civic Center board plans an executive session under the agenda title of
“Private Management Workshop.”
Pratt said the goal of this workshop is to review “management models, how the Civic Center will be operated, additional demands on staff, possible additional staff,” but emphasized that the Civic Center has “excellent staff” that are involved in the discussion.
“We’re just informing ourselves of different ways that arenas all over the country are run,” Pratt said.
“This is just a proactive measure to look at management models all over the country and determine together with our existing staff what the best way to go forward is,” he said.
The special meeting is scheduled for 7:45 a.m. at the Cumberland County Courthouse, Peter J. Feeney Conference Room. Portions in executve session are closed to the public.
Civic Center Trustee meeting notices are posted on the Civic Center website at www.theciviccenter.com. Updates on the Civic Center renovation are available on the Civic Center’s website and also on the Civic Center’s Facebook page.
Extensive exterior renovations are underway at the Civic Center, both on the Free Street and Spring Street sides. The Civic Center Administration Offices and Box Office have been relocated to 48 Free St. during the renovation.