Mixed reaction on event centers new name

EVERETT — Comcastic or a Comcastrophy, the city’s iconic events center has a new name — and it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Reaction on the street was mixed Friday to word that the publicly owned $71.5 million Everett Events Center is now the Comcast Arena at Everett Events Center.

“It’s a long name,” said Ethan Anderson, 11, outside of Brooklyn Brothers Pizzeria on Hewitt Avenue.

Indeed.

But don’t get too used to the moniker. A year from now, the home to the Western Hockey League’s Silvertips will be known as Comcast Arena at Everett.

That’s a little easier to articulate.

Philadelphia-based cable giant Comcast Corp. agreed Thursday to buy the naming rights to the four-year-old building for the equivalent of $7.4 million in cash and advertising to be shelled out over the next decade.

For the past seven months, Comcast had quietly negotiated a naming rights contract with Global Spectrum, the company that manages the 10,000-seat arena, conference center and community ice rink. Global Spectrum is owned by Comcast.

Gary Weikiel, who sits on the five-member governing board that oversees the facility, said there was no conflict of interest because the board set the parameters of talks and had ultimate say over the contract that was approved.

The practice of companies buying naming rights to sports complexes is nothing new. Taxpayer-funded Qwest Field, Safeco Field and Key Arena are local examples.

Jon Toeus, 18, said he thinks having Comcast logos all over the building, tickets, doors and parking lots will be “a little obnoxious and tarnish things a bit.”

At the same time, the Mill Creek man sees pragmatism in the exchange.

“The Events Center has to make money somehow. From a business perspective, you’ve got to do what you can.”

Everett City Councilman Bob Overstreet takes a similar view of the renaming.

“It’s better than what we were getting for the first couple of years, which was a big goose egg,” he said. “There is a corporate name tied to it now and, yes, there will be a billboard out front. But that’s what (Comcast is) paying $340,000 a year for. It’s a tradeoff.”

Overstreet is the council’s liaison to the Everett Public Facilities District, the public agency that owns the events center. He said he only learned of the deal on Thursday morning when he showed up the board’s monthly meeting.

Civic leaders had planned to auction off naming rights of Everett’s entertainment complex from beginning.

Everett accounting firm Hascal, Sjoholm &Co. created a business plan for the city long before the facility was built. A corporate sponsor always was assumed to help the project pencil out. The accounting firm reviewed the contract with Comcast and urged its adoption.

Anyone who has driven around the events center already knows that Comcast has put its mark on the building.

It has paid $300,000 for naming rights to the community ice rink over the past three years.

“I really thought it was Comcast rink already,” said Dave Smith, owner of Schiavo’s Bakery at 1907 Hewitt Ave., across the street from the complex.

While his 15-year-old son Matthew participated in the Silvertips’ training camp inside the arena, Mark Ferbery of Edmonton, Alberta, took a coffee break near an outdoor fountain with other fathers of potential future hockey stars.

Edmonton Coliseum in his hometown is now called Rexall Place.

It’s Wayne Gretzky’s old stomping ground and a large bronze statue of the former Oilers captain stands outside.

“I still like it when they keep public names and don’t sell it,” Ferbery said. He said keeping the name is a matter of civic pride. Repeating it in broadcasts also helps sell the community rather than a company, he said.

Sitting on a concrete planter reading a newspaper across the street from the events center, Paul Manselle shrugged off the name change.

The Everett man who lives in an apartment building across the street said he’s OK with the deal, as long as neon signs aren’t erected.

“Many of the big corporations are doing it across the country,” he said. “It’s just a sign of the times. I do like the fact that it will be adding to the city coffers.”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

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