MetraPark Arena naming rights sold

County signs deals to increase advertising income
2007-02-12T23:00:00Z MetraPark Arena naming rights soldTOM HOWARD Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
February 12, 2007 11:00 pm  • 

Billings-based Rimrock Auto Group will pay Yellowstone County $100,000 a year for 10 years for naming rights to the MetraPark Arena as part of a marketing plan that combines high-definition video technology and electronic advertising at the county entertainment complex.

Under the contract, the multi-use arena will be known as Rimrock Auto Group Arena at MetraPark, county commissioners said Monday.

The deal for naming rights is part of a comprehensive marketing plan that includes the installation of $1.5 million worth of electronic signs and television monitors throughout the arena. Other buildings at MetraPark aren't included in the agreement, although the commissioners said they would be willing to look into other opportunities for selling naming rights.

Commissioner John Ostlund said Monday that the new deal could triple the amount of advertising income generated by MetraPark, depending on how many new advertisers sign up to have their company or organization advertised. Three outdoor billboards and around 30 indoor signs now generate about $80,000 a year.

When the new video equipment is installed, perhaps later this year, fans waiting in line for concessions will be able to keep their eyes on the action, Ostlund said. Three new electronic billboards will also be placed outside MetraPark, he said.

Bill Dutcher, MetraPark general manager, said the improvements include a new video scoreboard capable of providing instant replay.

The naming rights deal is part of the county's effort to find creative ways to increase MetraPark's revenues without asking for more money from the taxpayers, according to commission Chairman Jim Reno. Taxes account for about 20 percent of MetraPark's budget, which is about $5 million per year.

Last spring the commissioners contracted with Daktronics of Brookings, S.D., to develop a comprehensive marketing program for MetraPark. Daktronics has installed scoreboards and electronic signs around the world for more than 30 years.

Dutcher said MetraPark and Daktronics are working to land advertising agreements with other businesses, and that the new equipment could be installed by this summer.

Dutcher, who worked at MetraPark for 25 years before being named general manager last year, said electronic advertising and naming rights are part of the landscape at entertainment complexes.

While attending a convention last week in Los Angeles, Dutcher noticed that just about every sporting venue has a corporate name. "In Sioux City, Iowa, they have the Tyson Center," he said. The former Delta Center in Salt Lake City is now known as the Energy Solutions Arena, he said.

The trend of naming arenas for corporate sponsors has come to Billings. Last year the local high school stadium was renamed Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium after Wendy's of Montana donated $400,000 for a renovation that included new artificial turf.

The new baseball stadium that will replace Cobb Field will have a corporate or family name attached to it. John Dehler, owner of Fleetwood Gaming, last fall pledged $1 million toward the stadium project in exchange for naming rights.

Daktronics and Yellowstone County will share advertising revenues. The first $100,000 annually goes to the county. Each additional dollar above $100,000 is shared, with 80 percent going to Daktronics and 20 percent going to the county. When advertising revenue exceeds $500,000, the county and Daktronics split the additional money evenly, Ostlund said.

Ostlund said the new agreement reduces the county's risk in several ways. While negotiating with Daktronics, the county insisted that the people running the equipment would be Daktronics employees. If the county and Daktronics part ways, the equipment becomes county property.

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