December 18th, 2007

PCCC looking to sell naming rights

By Bernard Schoenburg
State Journal Register (MO)

New general manager discussing idea with companies

The Prairie Capital Convention Center could end up with a new name for the right price, the building’s new general manager says.

Brian Oaks said Monday he’s talking with companies who might be interested in naming rights or a building sponsorship.

“What we’re looking to do is partner with a large corporation who has something to gain from the amount of exposure that we give,” Oaks said. “Every year, we have approximately 300, 350,000 people … that come through our building, and we think that … offers some kind of an advertising opportunity.”

The rights could come with a change in the building’s name, he said.

Mike Coffey Jr., chairman of the elected board that oversees the facility, the Springfield Metropolitan Exposition & Auditorium Authority, indicated he’s open to the renaming idea.

“I’m for anything that benefits the taxpayers economically,” Coffey said.

The board Monday promoted Oaks to interim general manager. He basically moved into that role after a board committee last month also voted to name Oaks, 31, as the interim replacement for general manager Tom Margedant, who announced he was leaving for health reasons.

The full board approval took place without discussion Monday.

Oaks had been paid $48,000 as operations manager of the convention center. As of Jan. 1, his pay will go up to the $72,000 annually that Margedant has been making.

The board Monday also increased the monthly marketing contract of Joe Saputo to $4,500 from $3,500.

Oaks said after the meeting that a recent arena sponsorship deal in Bloomington was in the millions of dollars. He’s not sure what a Springfield deal would bring.

“We’re putting out feelers right now. We don’t have a specific company that we’re targeting, and obviously, all of that would be open to negotiation,” he said.

U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, a $26 million facility with 7,000 seats, opened in April 2006. The naming agreement was worth about $2 million over 10 years, said Bryan Bloodworth, director of media relations for the building.

Oaks has said he wants to make a number of improvements at the Prairie Capital Convention Center, including better locations for concession stands and more visible staff at events.

The board Monday approved spending $600 with All-American T-Shirt Co. for new staff shirts — a move toward one of those goals. Oaks said maroon and navy-blue shirts will be replaced by neon-green shirts for ushers and bright-orange shirts for security staff. He said it’s a way of “making sure that people know that if they have a question or a concern … they know how to get in touch with a person that can help answer that question.”

Coffey said Oaks’ performance will be reviewed after six months, “and then, I hope that we offer him a contract.”

Oaks, who was box office manager before becoming operations manager, has been with the building for approximately five years.

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