Asheville City Council voted 6 to 1 May 28 to accept an offer for a 5- to 10-year naming rights agreement with Harrah’s Cherokee for the Asheville Civic Center in downtown Asheville. The new agreement will replace the existing contract with U.S. Cellular that expires December 31, 2019. The vote concludes a year-long effort to explore licensing agreements with respect to the naming of the Civic Center property.
“The City of Asheville is looking forward to growing our relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through the naming rights for the Civic Center,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer. “We appreciate the investment they are making in downtown Asheville.”
“We would also like to thank U.S. Cellular for their sponsorship during the last nine years,” the Mayor added.
“We are very excited to embark on this new adventure with Harrah’s Cherokee. As part of the new agreement, there are several new fan experience initiatives that we will be able to bring into fruition,” said Chris Corl, General Manager of the U.S. Cellular Center Asheville. “The Harrah’s Cherokee brand has a strong, supportive position in Western North Carolina, and we are excited to be a part of that relationship.”
Once the new contract goes into effect, the Civic Center will be renamed the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville.
The venue is home to the ExploreAsheville.com Arena and Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and has served as the host site for Fed Cup international tennis events, Southern Conference Basketball Championships, and Warren Haynes Presents Christmas Jam in recent years.
The naming process
In July 2018, the City of Asheville Finance Committee approved a process to explore licensing agreements with respect to the naming of the Civic Center. The current naming rights are licensed to U.S. Cellular Inc. as the U.S. Cellular Center. City staff’s goal was “to contract a licensing agreement with a notable company or individual that is culturally and socially compatible with the local community.”
Following a formal process, City staff presented two offers to the Civic Center Commission. The proposals included an extension with U.S. Cellular Inc. and a proposed new agreement with Harrah’s Cherokee Resort, an enterprise of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Harrah’s Cherokee, an enterprise of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, offer
This proposal offers a total term potential of $5.75 million over up to 10 years. It includes annual naming license fee for both the Civic Center, the Civic Center Parking Garage, and $750,000 in funds specifically dedicated to fan experience improvements such as public Wi-Fi and digital video board improvements. Additionally, the offer includes full reimbursement of up to $250,000 for signage and branding transition to replace existing signage and branding to display the new facility name.
U.S. Cellular Center facts
- 233,298: 2018 attendance.
- 212,609: Five-year average annual attendance.
- 255: Average number of days annually the facility is in use.
- 25: Number of events broadcast live or via web stream at the facility in fiscal year 2018.
For more information about the U.S. Cellular Center, visit uscellularcenterasheville.com.
Here is a link to the staff report presented to Council prior to the vote. Here is a link to the PowerPoint presentation made to Council prior to the vote.