Kent’s ShoWare Center to get longer name

Kent’s ShoWare Center will soon get a longer name. In return, the city will get more money.

Coming this fall, the city-owned arena will be known as the accesso ShoWare Center under a naming rights agreement. England-based accesso (which uses the small letter a for its name, which is Italian for access or admission) bought in 2014 California-based VisionOne, Inc., which owned ShoWare.

The owners of accesso agreed to pay $3 million to get the naming rights for 10 years, according to city documents. The company also will pick up the remaining two years (2017, 2018) of the ShoWare contract, so the agreement will extend through 2029 at $300,000 per year. ShoWare signed off in 2009 when the arena opened to pay $3 million for the naming rights.

VisionOne and accesso are technology companies that provide ticketing services. Nearly 500 venues and leisure organizations throughout North and South America use accesso ShoWare business products and processes more than 19 million tickets annually. And accesso has more than 1,000 clients (concert venues, theme parks and others) around the world that use its ticket services.

“We’re very fortunate,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager, at a Kent City Council Economic and Community Development Committee meeting Monday. “Talking to my peers, we have a great deal a great thing going here. … For ShoWare to come back and renew with us in this market and this day and age, it’s a very good thing for us.”

The council’s committee recommended that the full council approve the new naming rights agreement on Tuesday, June 20.

“I can tell you from a business standpoint in my experiences that it’s not always healthy to change names out of buildings,” Councilman Jim Berrios said. “Regardless, we need to make sure for the city and the people in our community that we are doing the right thing for everybody involved here.”

The city will actually received $250,000 per year for the naming rights with $50,000 per year going to the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team, the anchor tenant of the 6,200-seat arena. That’s the same amount of the previous agreement and part of the contract with the T-Birds came to Kent in 2009 from the KeyArena in Seattle.

“That’s a pretty positive outcome for the city,” said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, about the T-Birds share of naming rights funds compared to what anchor tenants receive at other venues.

Several venues, such as the Tacoma Dome, Yakima SunDome and Spokane Arena do not have naming rights deals.

The new name will go up on the arena’s marquee sign, on the building and on the video scoreboard, although accesso will be in smaller letters than ShoWare Center. It has yet to be determined if accesso will be added to the reflective name in the glass people see as they enter the facility. The new name, to be rolled out as the T-Birds start their 2017-18 season this fall, also will become the official name for all marketing purposes.

“But for all intents and purposes, our facility will continue to be known as ShoWare Center,” said Wolters, except for the change in signage

The cost of the new signage will be about $45,000. The city will pay for that cost out of a $500,000 no-interest loan budget set up by SMG, which has the city contract to market the arena.

The ShoWare Center has lost money each year since it opened in 2009 for a total of about $3.5 million in operating losses. The facility had its lowest annual loss in 2016 at $155,268 and its highest loss in 2014 at $752,324.