MANKATO — The Mankato City Council approved a naming-rights deal Monday night making the civic center the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center for at least the next five years.
“A mouthful,” Mayor Najwa Massad said in introducing the resolution approving the new name.
City Manager Pat Hentges also dropped one of the half-dozen words in the name when talking about the on-going process of installing new signs throughout the arena.
“We’ll get that right,” Hentges told Mayo representatives attending the council meeting. “It’ll flow right off our tongues.”
While the new name is a bit longer than before, the agreement — which will bring $600,000 in revenue over five years, along with several Mayo-related civic center events — is also a good deal for the city, the council concluded in unanimously approving the pact.
It marks the sixth name change since the 1995 opening of the civic center, which hosts Minnesota State University hockey, concerts, trade shows and conventions. Originally called the Mankato Civic Center, it became Midwest Wireless Civic Center in 1999 when that local telecommunications company offered to buy the naming rights. The name changed as Midwest Wireless was absorbed by larger communications companies, becoming the Alltel Center (2007), the Verizon Wireless Center (2009), the Verizon Center (2017) and the Mankato Civic Center once again (when Verizon declined to renew the naming-rights deal last year.)
With New York-headquartered Verizon uninterested in keeping its name on the facility, Mayo contacted city officials to express interest in the naming rights, Hentges said. Months went by as the city worked with a consultant to determine the value of the naming rights, contacted other area companies about their potential interest, and ultimately negotiated a deal with Mayo.
The goal was to find a name that reflected favorably on the municipal facility and find a partner that wanted to do more than write out an annual check, according to Hentges.
“It’s not just a monetary transaction, it’s a partnership,” he said. “... We’re very excited about this.”
The naming-rights deal is expected to lead to new health and wellness events at the civic center, healthy menu options within the arena and possibly an indoor walking program or public skating times to promote exercise.
“The sky’s the limit between our staffs in terms of looking at how this partnership can expand,” Hentges said.
The deal may have undermined another partnership — the one between the MSU athletics department and the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic and Sanford Health. MSU’s men’s and women’s hockey teams are the primary tenants at the civic center, and MSU athletics signed a deal in February with OFC and Sanford, competitors to Mayo Clinic Health System, that provides MSU with $1.74 million in financing and medical services in exchange for marketing of OFC on the university campus and at the arena.
When Mayo’s name and logo were painted beneath the hockey rink’s ice prior to the Mavericks’ first home series of 2020, OFC’s name and logo were erased.
OFC CEO Andrew Meyers said MSU might have to renegotiate what it is receiving from OFC if sponsorship and marketing opportunities are eliminated at MSU hockey games.
“That’s something we’re going to have to talk to MSU about,” Meyers said Monday in a Free Press interview.
During the first hockey series at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center, MSU was still heralding its partnership with OFC over the public address system and on the scoreboard.
“We just think that’s great and we’d like to see that continue,” Meyers said.
Meyers was also critical of the way the city handled the removal of the clinic’s name from the ice, saying it “could have been handled in a more open and professional way.”
Hentges said exclusivity is common when naming rights and other arena partnerships are sold and that the exclusivity adds financial value. In addition to Mayo, other arena sponsors such as Cambria and Pepsi have exclusivity clauses that prohibit competitors’ advertising in the arena.
“They pay a little more for that exclusive relationship,” he said. “... (Those payments) are extremely important for a balanced budget at the civic center.”
Hentges also emphasized that the city — not MSU — has control over all advertising in the arena. While MSU is allowed to sell advertising on the hockey rink itself, the university must get the city’s approval of each advertiser. Verizon even had to sign off on MSU’s request to name its arena-based hockey facilities the “Don Brose Training Center” in honor of the former men’s hockey coach.