New three-year contract signed for Covelli Centre naming rights

By David Skolnick


Covelli Enterprises signed a three-year contract extension, retroactive to May 1 and for more money, to retain the naming rights of the city-owned sports and entertainment facility.

The contract, finalized Thursday, calls for the Warren-based company to pay $200,000 a year for three years for the Covelli Centre’s naming rights.

“We are extremely pleased to continue our partnership with Covelli Enterprises,” said Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management Group, the company that has run the day-to-day operations of the center for the city since 2008. “It has been such an honor to have Covelli Enterprises as our naming rights’ sponsor, and we’re just delighted to continue that relationship.”

Covelli — the largest franchisee of Panera Bread and O’Charley’s Restaurants, which started buying Dairy Queen stores in Northeast Ohio last year — was paying $175,000 for naming rights on a one-year contract that expired April 30. Before that, Covelli paid $120,000 annually under a three-year contract.

“When our company agreed to put our name on the center in 2009, we did it because of our commitment to the community and our belief in Eric Ryan and his team to turn the center around,” said Sam Covelli, owner and chief executive officer of Covelli Enterprises. “In the past four years with the overwhelming support of this community, what has happened at the center has exceeded my expectations.”

The city signed only a one-year contract last year because Mayor Charles Sammarone wanted to see if the facility could be sold or leased, and didn’t want to enter into a long-term deal if Youngstown wasn’t going to run the center. Sammarone opted not to sell or lease the center in April and signed a five-year contract extension a month later with JAC.

Before Covelli, the center was called the Chevrolet Centre with General Motors paying $175,000 a year for three years. The GM contract, signed in late 2005, expired three years later. The Chevrolet name stayed on the building for about six more months at no cost to GM before Covelli negotiated a deal for the naming rights.

Between 2008 and 2012, the center went from a $310,435 operating deficit to a $320,787 operating surplus.

Also, for the first time since it opened in October 2005, the center finished last year with a profit. The center made $67,261 in revenue in 2012 from its operating surplus, a 5.5 percent admission tax on each ticket, and food-and-beverage sales. That’s after the principal and interest it paid last year on the $11.9 million loan it borrowed in 2005 as its portion of constructing the $45 million facility.

Through the first six months of this year, the center is on pace to finish 2013 with a profit.

“Covelli Enterprises has made every effort to help us succeed,” Ryan said.

Sam Covelli added that the center has “become not only operationally profitable, but also has improved the quality of life for the people of this great community. We are excited to be able to do our part in helping the center grow with our naming rights renewal and our continued efforts in marketing and promoting the center in our stores.”

Sammarone said he was pleased with the new contract.

“It’s a big plus for us; we picked up some additional money,” he said. “It’s a big improvement over the old contract.”

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