February 5th, 2008

Your Name Here?

By Keith Edwards
Kennebec Journal, Morning Senitinel (ME)

City councilors voted unanimously Monday to study a sale of naming rights to the Augusta Civic Center.

In doing so, some said they hope the search for new potential revenue sources doesn’t come at the cost of no longer having “Augusta” attached to the name of the busy, city-owned building.

Councilors agreed to hire the national firm Front Row Marketing Services to study the potential for selling the name rights. The study is expected to look at how much money the city could gain by allowing a company to name the auditorium and convention center after itself. The study also is expected to look at the potential for selling naming rights or advertising space in particular sections of the building, or even the scoreboard.

Any decision to go beyond the study, to actually rename the 37-year-old building, would be made by the City Council.

Councilor Cecil Munson and others expressed concern selling the naming rights could remove the city’s name from the building.

“Augusta is a very sacred name,” said Mary Mayo-Wescott, a former city councilor. “We don’t want to lose that name.”

The $13,500 study will be paid for from the civic center’s annual budget, according to Augusta Civic Center Director Dana Colwill.

Colwill said the center needs to look for new sources of revenue.

He said the civic center lost $65,000 last year after two successful years.

He noted other similar buildings aren’t doing as well, with the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston losing about $500,000 last year.

Naming rights to the Colisee were sold to Androscoggin Bank about a year and a half ago.

Colwill said selling the naming rights is one of the few potential new revenue sources for a building such as the civic center.

He said over the last several years, fewer concert tours have come north to Maine than in the past.

And he noted the civic center is often booked up by conventions and other events, and so doesn’t have very many dates available to add more events.

“I don’t see us generating additional revenues without doing something out of the ordinary,” Colwill said.

City Manager William Bridgeo said it was too early to predict how much revenue the city could get, estimating only that it would be “significantly greater than $50,000 a year and significantly less than $500,000 a year.”

Councilor David Rollins, who served on the naming rights committee that interviewed Front Row representatives and recommended the firm be hired to conduct the study, said the committee understands the importance of protecting Augusta’s image and culture when considering changing the name of the civic center.

“Be reassured the people on the committee have a high degree of concern about cultural protection,” he said.

“We understand the culture, the pride,” Rollins said. “Not only in the building, but in the name.”

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