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Corporate sponsorship plays continued role in U of O fields and arenas

Mackenzie Gray | Fulcrum Staff

LIKE IN PRO sports, the naming rights of sporting facilities have become a lucrative business at the university level. For cash-strapped institutions, it’s an easy way to bring in more money, and for businesses it’s an effective way to work their way into the elusive 18–25 age demographic.

You don’t have to look much further back than 2011 to see the stadium name game taking place right here on the University of Ottawa campus. In recognition of Minto’s support of the university, the Sports Complex at 801 King Edward Ave. was renamed the Minto Sports Complex in 2011.

The Minto Group is one of Ottawa’s largest condominium and housing developers with many projects in both Canada and the United States. It was Minto’s $2.5-million commitment to contribute to the expansion and upgrades of the Desmarais building that led the U of O to recognize the company. This unorthodox way of renaming the Sports Complex was passed despite the university’s by-laws on naming. Under Section 9, Letter E, the university commits to “no corporate names, logos, symbols or word marks” being “featured on the exterior of any building that houses an academic unit.”

This marked a departure from the traditional method of awarding naming rights. It is particularly helpful when a major project is underway and the university is looking for a shot of cash to keep a project moving along.

With the opening of the new Lees Avenue stadium in the fall, it’s already easy to foresee yet another name change of a campus facility. Since the stadium is strictly a sporting facility, the naming rights could be sold in accordance with the by-laws of the university. This could mean big bucks.

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The new stadium will be the centrepiece for university football, soccer, and women’s rugby. With its proximity to campus, it is projected to be sold out for every game this year. As of last year, the university had also planned to use the field for community activities by having recreational soccer and other outdoor sports on the field. This would create an opportunity for broad exposure, which is, for most companies, quite appealing.

The university also recently announced a plan to continue using the Lees Avenue facility during the winter months by financing the purchase of a new dome to go over the field. The university is hoping that costs for the dome will be recuperated by operating an intramural sports league and by renting the field out to other teams and competitive leagues.

Putting a dome over the field was the original plan for the facility during the 2012 winter season but a deal could not be reached between the University, the City of Ottawa, and Coliseum, the owner of the dome and operator of many successful indoor soccer leagues formerly at Lansdowne Park. This major capital expense was not in the budget during the building of the facility, making the stadium a perfect opportunity for a business to make a splash within the community and the younger demographics this year.