WHEELING - The name WesBanco Arena will remain emblazoned across the home of the Wheeling Nailers for at least another decade, as the bank and the downtown venue have agreed to a 10-year, $2.5 million naming rights extension.
The Friday deal will be key to keeping the Wheeling Nailers viable in the ECHL's smallest market, while providing a boost to the ongoing effort to upgrade and modernize the 36-year-old downtown venue, according to bank officials and Dennis Magruder, arena manager and executive director of the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority.
"The long-term goals of WesBanco Arena include stability, and that includes growing our client and tenant base and improving our facilities. The renewal of the naming rights agreement for the WesBanco Arena by WesBanco goes a long way to securing our future," Magruder said. "We treasure the Wheeling Nailers and the fact that we are the oldest franchise in the ECHL."
Photo by Scott McCloskey
WesBanco has renewed its naming rights for WesBanco Arena. The new deal is for 10 years and $2.5 million.
WesBanco Chief Executive Officer Paul Limbert said the deal represents a continuation of the bank's commitment to supporting economic development in Wheeling. He said the arena sponsorship has been a major marketing boon for the company over the past decade.
The arena's previous 10-year deal with WesBanco, struck in 2003, was for $2.3 million. Prior to that, the venue was known as the Wheeling Civic Center.
The renewed agreement couldn't have come at a better time for the arena, which Magruder acknowledges is showing its age. The facility was built in 1977 at a cost of approximately $7 million.
A renovated lobby, repairs to the leaky front of the building, more comfortable seating, digital sound and modern light and video capabilities are just some of the improvements he would like to see in the coming years.
City officials already have announced their intention to fund about $4 million in improvements to the venue through proceeds from a new, half-percent sales tax set to go into effect Oct. 1. City Manager Robert Herron said he's already seeking firms interested in designing the renovation project.
Wheeling Nailers Governor Don Rigby - also executive director of the team's principal owner, the Regional Economic Development Partnership - pointed to Tuesday's announcement and recent renewals of its affiliation with the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens as indicators of a bright future for the franchise.
The Nailers drew 2,488 fans per game during the 2012-13 season - second-lowest in the league and down about 6 percent from the 2011-12 season - as they missed the postseason for the first time since 2010. ECHL teams drew an average of 4,695 fans per game last season.
The Hockey Club of the Ohio Valley - a partnership between RED and the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association - purchased the Nailers last year for an as-yet undisclosed price from former owners Rob and Jim Brooks. Nailers Alternate Governor Brian Komorowski, also RED's financial manager, said he could not comment on whether the team is making a profit.
"We're working to make this a viable, long-term franchise," Komorowski said.
The Nailers open their exhibition schedule Oct. 5 at WesBanco Arena against the Elmira Jackals. They will also open the regular season against at home against Elmira, hosting the Jackals on Oct. 18.