First Interstate Bank and Ultra Graphics are willing to spend serious money to put their names and logos on MetraPark's arena, their bids show.
First Interstate made a bid for a 5-year contract, paying $175,000 per year for naming rights to the arena. Ultra Graphics proposed a 5-year contract with an option to renew for another 5 years, starting at $100,000 for the first year and climbing to $165,000 the 10th year.
Both companies said they would assume the costs of replacing the signage inside and outside the arena, which was required by the county. The call for bids came about after Rimrock Auto Group notified Yellowstone County commissioners last summer it would not seek to renew its contract.
The dealership instead will put that money into digital marketing and sales. Steve Zabawa, co-owner of Rimrock Auto, has been heading up the development of the WebBuy app, which allows people to buy cars on their phones.
Still, Zabawa said it was worth having the naming rights for the last decade.
"Overall it was a benefit to our organization," he said.
Rimrock Auto has had its name on the arena since 2007, and began by paying $100,000 a year for the rights. In 2009, after a down year during the recession, Rimrock Auto and the county renegotiated their contract after several late payments. Rimrock now pays $112,500 per year.
Zabawa noted that Rimrock Auto Group has grown significantly during the past five years, and he attributes some of that growth to the visibility and credibility gained by having its name on the arena.
"It was value well received," he said.
Main Street, which runs in front of the arena, carries 50,000 cars a day and the arena itself is visible from Interstate 90. He also noted that any time the media covers an event at the arena, Rimrock's name appeared in the coverage.
In its proposal, First Interstate noted its experience working with government entities to secure naming rights. The Spokane Opera House in Spokane, Washington, is now the First Interstate Center for the Performing Arts.
Part of the bank's requirements for naming rights at MetraPark's arena include exclusivity among the arena's top three sponsors. In its proposal First Interstate asked that the arena's other two upper-level sponsors not be competitors of the bank.
It also requested the right to take over signage at the arena occupied by Yellowstone Bank. It also asked for "approval authority of other sponsors from the financial services industry."
In its proposal, Ultra Graphics stated that it "does not seek exclusivity protections." The name it proposed to use is Ultra Graphics Arena.
The bank proposed a couple options; First Interstate Arena and First Interstate Bank Arena.
Both proposals have been turned over to MetraPark staff at the county where a committee will evaluate them. From there, staff will make a recommendation and the county will sit down with either First Interstate or Ultra Graphics and negotiate a final contract. The committee hopes to have a recommendation ready for county commissioners by mid-January.
Rimrock Auto Arena’s contract expires May 31. Ray Massie, marketing and sales director for MetraPark, said the typical fee that companies pay for arena naming rights works out to be about $1 per year per person living in the community.
Since Yellowstone County's population is nearly 160,000, $160,000 per year is about what MetraPark officials hoped to secure for the next naming rights contract.