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PHOTO: Civic Center Naming

The Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center is seen on a sunny day on Dec. 22. The Charleston City Council announced creation of a new committee to explore a potential naming rights contract for the venue.

What’s in a name?

For the city of Charleston and its Coliseum, there could be money.

A new committee has been tasked with submitting to the Charleston City Council a recommendation for a naming rights contract to the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.

At the Dec. 20 meeting of City Council, Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin appointed eight members to the new Select Committee on Naming Rights — Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.

City Manager Jonathan Storage, an ex-officio, nonvoting member of the committee, said the goal is to bring the facility in line with others of similar size and technology by naming it after a sponsor.

“It is good for our community, it’s good for the sponsor, and it’s a good for a revenue stream for the facility,” Storage said.

Other committee members include chairwoman Carrie Goodwin Fenwick, Ronnie Murad, Councilman Sam Minardi, Councilman Chad Robinson, Councilwoman Jennifer Pharr, Councilman Joe Jenkins and former councilman Andy Richardson.

Murad, Fenwick, Richardson, Robinson and Storage also are on the Coliseum’s board.

The committee will seek proposals from firms and businesses all over the country, then evaluate proposals and negotiate the best terms that meet with the approval of the City Council, Storage said.

“At the end of the day, we are looking for a sponsor who will be a good community partner, has good name recognition and represents the values of the community and the respects of their business and what they have to offer,” Storage said.

There’s a potential for two contracts — one for the Coliseum and another for the Convention Center, Storage said.

“The scope of the sponsorship, whether it’s broken into two, or having one, will determine the amount of revenue that we’re able to get,” Storage said.

“But I can tell you that this is likely going to be a lucrative situation for the city of Charleston and for the facility. And we’re looking forward to a multi-year — possibly 10-, 15-, maybe 20-year — agreement with a business to engage in the sponsorship partnership,” he said. “We’re expecting this to be something that will make money, year over year, in addition to making sure that we have the sponsor be someone who participates directly in the community, not just with putting a name on the building.”

Built in 1958, the Charleston Civic Center, now renamed the Coliseum & Convention Center, in recent years has undergone $110 million in renovations that included the addition of 25,000 square feet of new ballroom space, new meeting space and a new state-of-the-art kitchen, as well as aesthetic renovations and technological upgrades.

Patrick Leahy, general manager of the Coliseum, said the selling of naming rights is a fairly standard practice for public assembly facilities.

“When you look at when the renovations of the complex were done, they purposely did not replace any signage on the building,” Leahy said, “because you wouldn’t spend the money to put ‘Coliseum’ up on the side of a building if you thought that maybe you might engage in the marketing opportunities on the building.”

Leahy said in that, looking for sponsors, a business’ location, type and footprint should be considered.

“It truly is not just about the dollar amount,” Leahy said. “Many of the marketing agreements that venues engage in have a more broad-based relationship than you putting your name on a sign and the building, putting it up on the wall.

“There’s opportunities to reach more people, sell more tickets, provide greater exposure for the building in ways that you may not get to in traditional marketing circles. So, if a business entity has a unique capability of bringing additional value to the building, in terms of marketing and exposure and reach and ticket sales for events, that has a value.”

In 2019, the Mountain Health Network bought the naming rights for the 7,500-seat Huntington Civic Arena for $175,000 a year over 10 years for a total of $1.75 million, according to a news release from the city of Huntington. The revenue for the naming contract of the Mountain Health Arena goes in the city’s general fund.

Former Charleston mayor Danny Jones said the potential to sell the then-Civic Center’s naming rights came up during the first of his four terms. At the time, city officials were told they could get between $500,000 and $600,000 a year, Jones said.

“No one is going to take you seriously at that price,” he said.

Jones said the city would have trouble finding a sponsor to pay what it’s worth.

“Maybe if they could get one of the regional banks, BB&T or Chase, but they change names so often,” Jones said. “The banks are bought out and sold and change names and everything so often it’s just going to be difficult.”

Jones said the city would be lucky to get $1 million over a 10-year period.

“I hate to say that, because I’m for it,” Jones said. “I hope they prove me wrong.”

Storage said any revenue generated by naming rights would go back into the operating budget for the Coliseum.

The select committee does not have a time limit on when to present options to the City Council. The committee is expected to meet for the first time in January. Storage said the committee wants to make sure it negotiates the best deal possible to submit to the council.

“This is just a natural next step in the facility’s renewed life,” he said. “A facility of this caliber, of this sophistication, deserves to have a sponsored partner that facilities across the country can recognize as a peer facility.

“So, this is just part of the next step on reminding our community and surrounding regions that we now have a world-class facility that can hold its own with comparable facilities across the country.”

Lori Kersey covers the city and county. She can be reached at 304-348-1240 or lori.kersey@hdmediallc.com. Follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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