Naming Rights Extension Inked for Blue Cross Arena

November 28, 2013

The Rochester War Memorial, Home to American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans and National League Lacrosse’s Rochester Knighthawks,  will remain the Blue Cross Arena for at least 15 more years after an extension to their naming rights deal.

Rochester Mayor Thomas Richards this week asked City Council to extend an agreement with Excellus Health Plan (better known as Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield) for the continued naming rights of the arena through Oct. 31, 2028. Terms would remain unchanged from the original pact, authorized in June 1998. That includes the annual fee of $195,000.

That matter will come up for City Council consideration in mid-December.

In the meantime, city officials plan to tour the First Niagara Center early next month to see how operations are run there, said Carlos Carballada, the city’s neighborhood and business development commissioner.

“Not that we are going to be able to duplicate that,” Carballada said of the hoopla surrounding a home Sabres game. “We want to see what they are doing, get some ideas.”

The Sabres own the Rochester Americans hockey team, which is the main tenant at the downtown arena.

With the agreement set to expire, the city informally surveyed the market for potential interest.

“We did not get much of anything, and we had talked to Blue Cross, and they were interested in renewing at the same cost and time as they did before,” Carballada said. “We just didn’t think the business climate was in a situation we were going to do much better than what we had.”

Excellus had the right of first refusal on its naming rights contract for the arena. The city already lost sponsorship of the scoreboard after Constellation Brands Inc. chose not to renew its annual $125,000 agreement that has stood for 12 years.

Asked whether the city thought the value of the arena naming rights had increased since 1998, Carballada said: “Our fear was just the opposite, after we did our evaluation. We ran the risk of course that we would have nobody interested. That would have been a real blow to the city.”