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.