Minimum bid for naming rights for Watertown ice rink to be $50,000

City Council members want the city to get what it financially deserves for the renaming rights of the Watertown Municipal Arena, so they informally agreed on Monday night to increase the minimum bid to $50,000 a year.

They also informally agreed it would be to the city’s advantage to offer the deal for five years and an option for another five years. They also agreed that “Watertown” would not be required in the name for signs placed on the arena, as part of the renaming arrangement.

Councilman Mark C. Walczyk urged his colleagues to increase the minimum bid from $25,000, believing that the city can possibly attract a national company to pay more to place its name on the city’s renovated ice rink at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

“I really think we have a great opportunity,” he said. “I really think we can really do well.”

Mr. Walczyk mentioned that Binghamton receives $75,000 for five years from Maines Paper & Food Service Inc.; a Toyota dealership in Wenatchee, Wash., pays $1 million for five years for its sports venue; and Clipper Magazine has a 10-year deal for $2.5 million to have its name on a sports facility in Lancaster, Pa.

“Forgive me, but I think $25,000 is chump change,” Councilwoman Teresa R. Macaluso said.

Five companies initially expressed interest in the naming rights, but one firm has since backed out and she has not heard from a second one since the news of the renaming process first surfaced in January, Ms. Gardner said.

Yet Ms. Gardner told council members she’s confident that two others remain interested in the venture. She and other city staff intend to conduct more research and then give an update to council in May.

City staff had suggested offering a minimum $25,000 bid for a 10-year period, but council members would like to see how it goes for five years and offer an option for another five.

Ms. Gardner had figured the city would increase its chances of receiving a bid if the $25,000 was used, pointing out that the city was unsuccessful in attracting a bid for the arena’s concession stand back in January.

In the end, council members decided the city will run the snack bar after they rejected two more bids in March.

Signage has been another issue for the renaming rights. Council members also agreed on Monday night that the city should find a way for the company to have larger signage than a 200-square-foot requirement in the city’s zoning ordinance. When the 200-square-foot requirement was established in 1996, the ordinance required that the city also has to obey the limit on its properties, City Engineer Justin L. Wood said.

But council members are looking at possible ways to allow for larger signage. The city could establish a park district, take that phrase out about requiring the city to obey the ordinance or subdivide parcels so the fairgrounds’ sign along Coffeen Street would not be counted as signage for the arena.

“That’s something to discuss at a later date,” Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr. said.

In her presentation, Ms. Gardner pointed out that none of the other venues in Albany, Buffalo, stadiums for the New York Giants or the New York Mets or Binghamton have the municipalities’ names on the venues.

NBT Bank stadium, where the Syracuse Chiefs play, also has no indication that it’s owned by Onondaga County.

The owners of the Watertown Wolves minor hockey league team already have promised to return to play at the ice rink next season. The ice rink also hosts youth and high school hockey games and figure skating shows.

By Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times