Patience now name of game for rights to Chevy Centre

By David Skolnick

Three parties are interested in the center’s naming rights.

YOUNGSTOWN — Though city officials had expected a new naming rights agreement by now for the Chevrolet Centre, no deal is imminent.

For more than six months, the city hasn’t received any money for the entertainment and sports facility’s naming rights, something that would bring in at least $100,000 — and probably more — in needed income to the center annually.

Mayor Jay Williams said the city and the management team at the center are discussing naming rights proposals with three parties, two of them more serious than the third.

“The conversations are productive,” he said.

Bruce Zoldan, owner of Phantom Fireworks and the Mahoning Valley Phantoms hockey team that played this season at the center, is the only one to publicly confirm his interest.

Williams wouldn’t name the other two, and acknowledged that Zoldan is one of the two “more serious” parties.

Zoldan said he expects more detailed discussions with the city over the naming rights shortly, with a decision made in the middle or at the end of this month.

“We’re not close yet,” he said.

The city’s goal is to have a deal mutually beneficial to the center and the company paying the naming rights, Williams said.

The mayor had expected months ago that contract to be finalized no later than Tuesday, the end of the year’s first quarter, but that hasn’t happened.

“The people who write the check drive the discussions,” he said. “Discussions are still ongoing, and I’m encouraged by that. We’re not haggling over a car. The value is difficult to quantify. It’s a revenue enhancer. I’d rather get it right than get it done” by the end of the first quarter.

Also, the naming rights deal affects other major revenue sources at the city-owned facility, Williams said.

“If we diminish or undercut the naming rights, it impacts the value of suites, club seats and advertising,” he said.

Because of deep financial losses in a struggling economy, General Motors didn’t renew its contract for the center’s naming rights when the three-year deal expired Sept. 30, 2008.

GM paid $175,000 in cash annually and provided four vehicles a year to the city for the naming rights.

Meanwhile, officials with the city and center are discussing the future of hockey at the facility.

Zoldan is proposing a team from the United States Hockey League, the highest-level junior hockey league in this country.

The city also is looking at the potential relocation to the center of a team from the ECHL, a high-level minor league.

A decision is expected shortly.

“I want to tie hockey into the naming rights,” Zoldan said. “But the decision on hockey won’t impact the decision on moving ahead with the naming rights.”

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