The Atlanta Braves have signed a multimillion-dollar deal with a Marietta firm for naming rights to the Gwinnett Braves ballpark in Lawrenceville.
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The 16-year deal with Coolray Heating and Cooling will ultimately mean the county will get about a $4.5 million share over the life of the contract, county officials said. The deal also settles a more than yearlong effort to sell the naming rights to the $64 million, publicly financed structure.
“After our first full season of operation, the Gwinnett Braves continue to showcase our strong ties to the community and we are proud to partner with a great community-oriented company,” Mike Plant, Atlanta Braves executive vice president of business operations, said in a statement. “Coolray Field will continue to be a great place to bring family and friends.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Gwinnett County’s contract with the Braves calls for the club to receive the first $350,000 annually paid in naming rights, the county to receive the next $350,000 and anything over that to be divided evenly. With the county’s share calculated at about $281,000 a year, that puts the deal in the neighborhood of $10 million.
“It’s probably one of the top five or so minor league sports deals that has been done in the past six years,” said Preston Williams, managing director for the Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the ballpark. “It didn’t just happen overnight. It’s something they’ve been working on for a while.”
The Braves took over naming rights negotiations last fall when Gwinnett County was unable to market the stadium to potential sponsors. Under terms of the contract, had the county sold naming rights before September, it would have received the first $350,000 annually of any deal.
County Commissioner Bert Nasuti, who led the drive to bring minor league baseball to Gwinnett, said the deal will go a long way to ensuring the stadium remains in the black.
“It was always our vision that one of the financial components of this facility would be to have a naming rights partner,” Nasuti said. “Notwithstanding the way the economy has been the last few years, we had a great first year here. We made our numbers even without a naming rights partner. … We had over 400,000 Gwinnett citizens and citizens all over North Georgia come out here last year and love this facility.”
Final revenue figures for 2009 show the county covered its first loan payment of $2.6 million with little room to spare. The annual payments fluctuate between $2.1 million and $2.6 million per year for the next 30 years. Revenues fell short of expectations for parking, but the county made up for the deficit through increased revenues from its rental car tax.
As part of its naming rights agreement, Coolray will receive a sign at the main entrance to the ballpark, an LED marquee on Ga. 20 and signage on top of the right field scoreboard.
Ken Haines, Coolray president, said he is proud to participate in a local effort.
“For us to be able to keep it here locally, a family-type atmosphere, it was just a win-win,” he said. “It felt right.”