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FirstOntario takes center stage at Copps Coliseum

By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Almost 30 years after opening its doors, Copps Coliseum will be getting a new name.

Hamiltonpoliticians agreed at their Jan. 27 general issues committee meeting to a deal made between Global Spectrum, which operates the arena and First Ontario Credit Union, aHamiltonbusiness that opened its first bank in the city in 1939.

Under the 10-year, $3.5 million arrangement, the arena, opened in 1985, will be identified as FirstOntario Centre in honour of Victor K. Copps in smaller letters. In addition, Scott Warren, general manager of Copps Coliseum, said Victor K. Copps name will be placed at centre ice in an effort to honour the former mayor, who died in 1988.

“I think it’s a great name, better than the Air Canada Centre,” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, referring to Toronto’s basketball and hockey arena.

Councillors are expected to vote on the motion at their Jan. 29 council meeting.

Warrensaid Global Spectrum, which took over the arena last year under a five-year management agreement with the city, said the company consulted with the Copps family before making the deal. Warren, as well as Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr, spoke to former Hamilton Liberal MP Sheila Copps, Victor’s daughter, about the name change. Farr did say most of the family agreed to the change, except for sister Dr. Brenda Copps.

Sheila Copps sent a letter to council endorsing the name change.

Warrensaid there were four other companies Global Spectrum talked to about naming rights.

“There are not a lot of companies that can be in this position,” he said.

 FirstOntariois already a sponsor of the Hamilton Bulldogs, contributing about $600,000 over the last three years. Under an agreement between Global Spectrum and the Bulldogs, the hockey team is expected to share in a portion of the naming rights revenue, a revelation that took some councillors by surprise.

Last year the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced a 10-year deal with Tim Hortons to name the new Pan Am Stadium after the company. The arrangement is worth between $10 million to $15 million over the time period.

Warrenconfirmed city staff is adding language in the agreement that could increase the value of the naming rights if a hockey team or other sporting franchise plays out of the venue.

Global Spectrum was expected last year to start fielding offers to rename the arena in an attempt to boost its revenue stream. Under the management agreement, its fee is about $450,000. Any revenue that exceeds that amount the city and Global Spectrum split 70 to 30 in favour of the city.

Warrenthe $350,000 annual naming rights revenue is a gross figure. The company, he said, will spend about $50,000 installing the new sign.

Still, he assured councillors that Global Spectrum this year is nearing its profit sharing threshold with the city.

Mike Zegarac, the acting corporate services general manager, said he will be showing politicians this week the city’s subsidy to the Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. has dropped by about $1 million from $2.85 million last year to about $1.8 million in 2014.

“The proof is in the pudding,” said Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead. “We are meeting the objectives.”

AddedStoney Creekcouncillor Brad Clark: “This is really a good news story. It’s not so easy to get naming rights, especially out of this economy.”

Meanwhile, councillors are adamant they will find another building, or venue to honour Victor Copps, one of Hamilton’s most popular mayors from 1962 to 1976.

Mayor Bob Bratina says naming a stadium after important people doesn’t work out, as some stadiums across the country have either been demolished or overshadowed by other buildings.

“Victor K. Copps’ legacy will be much better captured in other things,” said Bratina.

 

 

 

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