Goodbye Asheville Civic Center, hello U.S. Cellular Center

At the close of business yesterday, no other company had submitted an upset bid to the city of Asheville, so the Asheville Civic Center will now be named the U.S. Cellular Center. The sale of the center’s naming rights, confirmed in a Nov. 22 City Council vote, was a controversial step.

U.S. Cellular offered $810,000 over five years, growing to $1.35 million if the city agrees to a three-year extension. When Council voted 6-1 to approve the deal, it allowed for another company to submit. That clause, proposed by then-Vice Mayor Brownie Newman, was a response to criticisms that the deal, announced just after this year’s Council elections, lacked transparency. With the expiration of that deadline, the deal is done. U.S. Cellular gets the naming rights, specifically its name on signs facing Interstate 240 and Haywood Street, event and product space inside, and its logo on everything from promotional materials to staff attire. There’s no word yet on when the new signs will go up.

There is also a U.S. Cellular Centers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Ill.

The Civic Center, completed in 1974, is largely funded by city taxpayers; its director and staff are city employees. Critics of the deal have asserted that the move puts a corporate identity on a civic facility for little gain. Proponents, however, contended that it’s necessary as part of overall efforts to continue renovations of the aging center, especially in preparation for the Southern Conference basketball tournament.

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4 thoughts on “Goodbye Asheville Civic Center, hello U.S. Cellular Center

  1. mat catastrophe

    Once again, I just can’t understand how no one was able to find a million dollars to outbid US Cellular.

    And, when I say “outbid”, I mean “bid” in the sense where there aren’t actually bids, just a backdoor deal selling out public spaces to corporations, done by City Management and the Mayor without any input from Council except a milquetoast complaint before a vote approving the matter.

    Hell, maybe I’ll just stay in Charleston. As far as I know, they haven’t sold out there public spaces this way.

  2. Johnny

    How the city leaders could not realize this issue is (was) large enough for them to take it to the voters for referendum is beyond me.

    They should have presented the case for and against it, with various options including the amount of property tax increases or changes in ticket prices or whatever, and let voters have some input.

    Instead, there’s now a new legal corporate name to be used for our public building, with no public input in the process to get there. Color me disappointed.

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