UT seeking to sell naming rights to Erwin Center

By John Maher
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Frank Erwin isn't losing a building; he's gaining a complex.

That's one way of looking at the University of Texas' announcement that a team has been formed to sell the naming rights to the Erwin Center. Lexington, Ky.-based Host Communications — a UT marketing partner — and Team Services LLC of Bethesda, Md., will be trying to find a corporate sponsor for the 16,000-seat facility, said Chris Plonsky, senior associate athletic director for the university.

"We're trying to find long-term financial comfort for the building," Plonsky said. "We're not the first to look at naming rights."

Naming rights are a revenue stream that has generated as much as $2 million a year for some universities.

Erwin's name would still be used for the complex, which would include the center and the new basketball practice facility. Erwin, who died in 1980, was a Board of Regents member in the 1960s, and is considered the driving force behind the university's building boom in the 1970s.

Texas sought a way to keep Erwin's name, while also being able to sell naming rights to the recently remodeled facility.

One university that's employed a similar naming rights tactic is Ohio State, where the Value City Arena is now part of the Jerome Schottenstein Center. That deal reportedly netted Ohio State $12.5 million.

The University of Maryland will receive $20 million during the next 25 years through its naming rights deal with cable provider Comcast. California State University at Fresno will get $40 million during the next 20 years from Save Mart for its new arena, the Save Mart Center. Texas Tech has a reported $20 million, 20-year deal for its Jones SBC Center.

Texas officials did not indicate how much they were seeking for naming rights to the Erwin Center.

jmaher@statesman.com; 445-3956