VyStar Credit Union has agreed to a 15-year, $9.76 million naming-rights sponsorship deal to rebrand the city-owned Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
If approved by City Council, the arena would be called VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Legislation was introduced Thursday.
According to a draft of the contract between the city, VyStar and arena manager SMG, the deal allows the Jacksonville-based credit union to become the first naming rights sponsor of the city-owned facility since it opened in November 2003.
The arena is Downtown at 300 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s office made the announcement in a news release Thursday.
“In coordination with veteran leaders, my staff and VyStar, we have an agreement that is good for taxpayers and at the same time creates new program funding for veterans in our City,” Curry said in the release.
“This is a win for everyone involved, and I will work with the City Council to earn their approval,” he said.
The agreement says VyStar will pay the city $525,000 in 2019, with payments increasing about 3 percent each year until 2033. The final payment is $794,110.
VyStar also will make a one-time payment of $50,000 to create a new “veteran memorial element” inside the arena during the first year of the contract.
The credit union pledges to match donations made at concessions stands, up to $50,000 annually, and will contribute up to $80,000 each year to host quarterly events for veterans inside the arena.
Between those programs and the naming rights fee, VyStar could spend as much as $10.64 million on the deal through 2033.
The city will place 10 percent of the naming rights fee into a “Veterans Memorial Arena Trust Fund” to support programs and initiatives for veterans and their families.
VyStar President and CEO Brian Wolfburg said in an interview the sides began talking in 2018.
“I’ve been at the credit union for just over a year and one of the things we’ve been doing is trying to elevate the brand here in Jacksonville and throughout North and Central Florida,” Wolfburg said.
He said conversations about a naming rights deal took place with his predecessor, but never became serious.
“We thought that the timing was good with us moving into the Downtown tower, with our name being added to the skyline,” he said.
VyStar purchased the SunTrust Tower in July for $59 million and is renovating it to serve as its corporate headquarters. It expects to move in this year.
Wolfburg said the city took the lead with local veterans groups to make sure they were on board with the name change.
He said VyStar shared the same concerns with the city and SMG about changing the name.
“We have good connections with individuals in the military here in Northeast Florida and with the veteran groups, so once we knew they felt comfortable, we were comfortable moving forward,” he said.
According to the news release from the mayor’s office, veterans and VyStar members will receive discounts on concessions, tickets and parking.
Veterans also will be able to purchase event tickets before they go on sale to the public.
Wolfburg said the sponsorship deal isn’t just an example of a corporation taking advantage of an opportunity to gain celebrity.
“This is who we are,” he said. “We were born here and have always supported the military community.”
VyStar began as Jax Navy Federal Credit Union in 1952 with its first branch at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. In 2002 it began offering memberships to residents in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.
According to the agreement, VyStar will pay for changes to signage, including large exterior signs that will be displayed at the top of the building on all four sides and one above the main entrance on the east side of the arena.
Interior digital signage includes concourse TV monitors, LED displays, ribbon boards, and scoreboard elements when used during events. That’s in addition to other fixed signage.
The city is responsible for any changes to marketing materials and updating digital assets.
As naming rights sponsor, VyStar receives access to one executive suite in the arena, which includes 16 tickets and four parking passes for all public events.
If the city lands an NBA or NHL professional franchise, the agreement would be renegotiated.
By: David Cawton