FAIRGROUNDS WOULD BE CALLED RIMROCK AUTO PARK

Rimrock Auto wants to rename MetraPark for $15,000 a year

"It confuses people. Am I going to the Rimrock Auto Arena or MetraPark?"
2011-04-06T22:15:00Z 2011-04-16T01:41:33Z Rimrock Auto wants to rename MetraPark for $15,000 a yearBy MATT HAGENGRUBER Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette

If Steve Zabawa gets his way, MetraPark will change its name to Rimrock Auto Park.

Zabawa floated the idea to Yellowstone County officials in recent weeks, and county commissioners will discuss it for the first time at 2 p.m. Monday.

Zabawa's company, Rimrock Auto Group, already pays $100,000 a year for naming rights to the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark. Now Zabawa and business partner John Soares are offering the county another $15,000 a year to rename the entire complex. With eight years left on the naming rights deal, renaming the entire complex would bring in an extra $120,000.

"What's always confusing is getting the message out to the community that it's Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark," Zabawa said from Helena, where he was monitoring the Legislature's handling of several medical marijuana bills. "It confuses people. Am I going to the Rimrock Auto Arena or MetraPark?" We said, 'Why don't we pay you some money to change MetraPark to Rimrock Auto Park, so there's no confusion.'"

Zabawa said out-of-town visitors and promoters don't understand the distinction between the arena and the rest of the county-owned complex, and efforts to clear things up haven't helped. He said media outlets often use "MetraPark" instead of "Rimrock Auto Arena" and pointed to the recent Sugarland concert announcement as an example.

"Go look back in the last three months how many times it has been done wrong," he said. "Sugarland, it doesn't say anything about the Rimrock Auto Arena, and that's a new one. I asked them to not have it happen again, but they can't get it right with the naming rights."

Zabawa said Soares came up with the idea after watching how the city handled the naming rights with Dehler Park, the new downtown baseball stadium. Zabawa said things turned out well for Jon Dehler, the businessman who donated $1 million and was given naming rights to the stadium.

"Nobody ever calls it Cobb Field anymore," he said. "Dehler's getting his bang for his million dollars. The naming rights deal turned out good. We'd like the same thing to happen at the Rimrock Auto Arena at Rimrock Auto Park."

Zabawa and Soares have also offered to pay for any new signs or other changes needed for a name change. Daktronics, the South Dakota-based company that handles most of MetraPark's advertising, wouldn't be involved in this name change, Zabawa said.

County officials reached Wednesday were reluctant to comment on the proposal, saying it was very new and most wanted to wait until the discussion next week. Commissioner Jim Reno said he wants to hear from others on Rimrock's offer.

"I certainly want to know all the pros and the cons should that contract either be extended or expanded," Reno said. "How would I know whether that's a good value or not? I just need to hear from those who do know. I'm trying not to pre-judge anything. I'd like a public discussion."

County Finance Director Scott Turner said Daktronics suspended Rimrock's annual payment after last year's tornado, but Turner expected the naming contract to be extended for a year because of the delay. Turner said Rimrock Auto Group was current on its payments before the tornado hit.

Contact Matt Hagengruber at mhagengruber@billingsgazette.com or 657-1261.

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