In The News

DePaul Strikes Arena Naming Rights Deal With Wintrust

Crain's Chicago Business, November 16, 2016

By Danny Ecker

The new home of DePaul University men's and women's basketball on the McCormick Place convention center campus has a new name.

With roughly a year to go before the debut of the publicly owned, 10,387-seat venue on the Near South Side, the school today announced it has reached a 15-year facility naming rights agreement with Rosemont-based lender Wintrust Financial to officially name the building Wintrust Arena.

Financial terms of the sponsorship remain under wraps. But an agreement between the school and New York-based sponsorship consulting firm Legends Sales & Marketing, which led the sale, estimated that DePaul could pull in $22 million from naming rights over an undisclosed period of time.

The deal adds to an already wide-ranging portfolio of Chicago sports marketing investments for Wintrust, which has been on a quest to raise its profile in Chicago. The bank is one of the largest sponsors of the Chicago Cubs, has a partnership with the White Sox and last year purchased an entitlement sponsorship to the Race to Mackinac.

Title rights to the new arena will give the bank another major Chicago asset to leverage in touting its more than 150 locations across Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The bank is second only to Northern Trust among Chicago's largest locally headquartered banks by assets.

"Part of the objective here is to say, 'we're a major player in banking in Chicago and we're going to express that by making a commitment to Chicago sports,'" said Jim Andrews, senior vice president at sponsorship consulting firm IEG. "Putting a name on a building is a very good way to do that. It's above and beyond just being an official sponsor."

DePaul retains revenue from naming rights at the arena, game day sponsorships and other sources because it is splitting the $164 million construction cost of the building with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the government agency known as McPier that will own and operate the facility. The school last year signed a 50-year lease. to play its men's and women's basketball games and hold other events such as commencement there.

Legends pitched the venue to potential naming rights partners as hosting between 50 and 70 events per year and having a projected 500,000 people come through its doors annually.

Achieving that attendance goal will hinge on far more people showing up to DePaul basketball games than the number seen at Allstate Arena in Rosemont today.

The Blue Demons would have to nearly quadruple their annual men's basketball attendance to meet the lofty estimate of 9,500 fans per game made by McPier. DePaul last season averaged fewer than 2,400 fans per game.

McPier officials have said they are aiming to attract more than 60 events per year to the building, including 29 DePaul events. They also hope to recruit a mix of concerts, amateur sporting events and small and midsize trade shows to the building.

The authority has touted the new arena as the centerpiece of an effort to spur an entertainment district around its convention center, hoping it will result in more visitors staying in its Hyatt hotel and a new 1,206-room Marriott hotel it is building next to the arena.

Update, 3:00 p.m.:

There is a lot more to the partnership than just naming rights to the building, DePaul and Wintrust officials said at an event this afternoon formally announcing the deal. But they were short on specifics.

Wintrust CEO Ed Wehmer called the deal a "two-way street" and alluded to the bank boosting its business with the university and increasing its presence on campus.

"This is a partnership literally that goes both ways," he said. "We look forward to working with DePaul on their banking needs and working with them on (the arena) and having a lot of fun."

Wehmer said signing on as a naming rights partner was as much about being associated with McCormick Place and McPier's movement to create an entertainment district as it was aligning with DePaul.

He believes the new arena will accomplish its goal of recruiting more convention business to Chicago despite revenue from conventions at McCormick Place falling in recent years.

"We love taking on the naysayers," he said. "They'll start bringing back more and more of these conventions. You can only take so much of Las Vegas."

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