sports journalist


By Ryan S. Clark


When it comes to naming rights, there’s more than just getting a shiny sign on the front of a building.


It is about a business getting its name out there in the community. In turn, it gives the building exposure and potential revenue from the sale.


The latest example would be the Scheels Arena, formerly the Urban Plains Center in southwest Fargo.


Scheels, a local sporting goods chain, announced Wednesday that it obtained the naming rights to the building.


“It shows support from an organization that this is a facility that is looking towards the long term,” said Jon Kram, the building’s general manager.


“It shows that (Scheels) is looking to develop, and so is the arena, for the future of youth hockey and other events.”


Kram declined to say how much the naming rights are worth.


He deferred the question to Scheels. Jason Loney, vice president of marketing for Scheels, said he does not know how much the deal is worth.


The arena, which was built in 2008, is owned by the Fargo Parks Department and managed by the Metro Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization.


Its primary tenant is the Fargo Force, a junior hockey team playing in the United States Hockey League.


Scheels, though locally based, has 23 stores in eight states. The privately owned company has more than 4,000 employees.


“It was a great opportunity for us as a hometown company and a hometown brand to be in a part of the community that is growing,” Loney said.


This is the first time Scheels has purchased the naming rights for a building, he said.


It took a year for Scheels to obtain the naming rights.


Other buildings that have been named after the company have come in lieu of donations that were made by Scheels to an organization.


Industry expert Eric Smallwood said naming rights offer many opportunities.


Smallwood would know. He’s the vice president of project management for Front Row Marketing Services, a company that represents nearly 50 venues and 18 major and minor league teams.


The company also negotiates naming rights.


“I think in any community, naming rights are very valuable to relationships to branding a company,” Smallwood said from his Port Huron, Mich., office. “It is real important from a sporting-goods ideal. They have a direct tie with the equipment by promoting it to other hockey players.”


Loney said Scheels will not be the team’s official source for equipment. But it will continue to sell Force apparel in its stores.


Another part of the agreement is that the arena or the Metro Sports Foundation cannot sell advertising to another sportinggoods competitor.


Smallwood said there are a few factors to consider when a company purchases naming rights:


    • What kind of exposure, such as TV and radio, do the Force attract to the building?


    • What other events are held at the arena?


    • Then the final question becomes: How much is all that worth?


Smallwood said naming rights became big in the mid-1990s.


The first naming rights purchase actually came in the 1970s when Rich Foods, a grocery store, bought the name to the Buffalo Bills’ stadium.


Kram, who was recently hired by the Metro Sports Foundation, said the deal was in progress when he arrived.


For now, he has to worry about getting new signage, letterhead and business cards reflecting the change.


He also said the new logo will be around the face-off circle during Force games.


The goal is to have all those changes made by Oct. 15, when the Force has its home opener.


Some changes have already been made with the new logo inside the building.


“When I worked with Target, (naming rights) was a huge benefit,” said Kram, who worked for the Minneapolis-based retailer for 14 years. “Whether it was Target Field or Target Center, I thought it strengthened the relationship in the community.”

Scheels buys Urban Plains Center naming rights

Business/Sports  |  Oct. 7, 2010  |  Page A1, A8

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