Asheville City Council preview: name wars

A controversial proposal to rename the Asheville Civic Center the “U.S. Cellular Center” — in exchange for at least $810,000 over five years (and possibly up to $1.35 million over eight years) to help with facility improvements — is at the top of a busy agenda for Asheville City Council tonight, Nov. 22.

Under the terms of the deal, U.S. Cellular would get to rename the Civic Center — which is managed and paid for by the city of Asheville. The communication company would also receive space for events and product displays, and have its logo on tickets, letterheads and staff attire, as well as signage facing Interstate 240 and Haywood Street. In return, the company would provide $750,000, along with $60,000 in capital cost sharing. A potential three-year extension could bring the total to $1.35 million.

The funds and assistance from U.S. Cellular total $162,000 a year over five years or $168,750 a year over eight years if the extension goes into effect.

Economic Development Director Sam Powers, according to staff reports, has worked on a naming rights deal since last year. Powers also serves as director of the Civic Center. The city is trying to raise its share of promised funds to refurbish the aging facility before the Southern Conference Basketball tournament next year.

The deal, announced Nov. 10, has attracted considerable criticism from citizens asserting that it was not sufficiently transparent, that the amount for the naming rights is too low, and that no open bidding process was held. The neighborhood advocacy group PARC (Council member Cecil Bothwell is a board member) blasted the deal. Xpress also received plenty of letters on the topic, mostly critical.

That’s not the only controversial item slated for the evening. Council will hear a report on the ABC Board, whose former director Curtis Canty resigned following allegations of corruption.

Council will also vote on continuing a contract to let First Transit manage the Asheville Transit system and a 312-unit apartment complex in the Long Shoals Road area, within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, on the second floor of City Hall.


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