Fairgrounds officials pushing for coliseum sponsorship

When the coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds reopens Thursday after a 22-month, $63 million renovation, the building will simply be called Fairgrounds Coliseum.

But don’t expect that name to stick around long, said Andy Klotz, public relations director for the Indiana State Fair Commission.

Coliseum fairgrounds renovated 15colThe exterior of the renovated Coliseum looks the same, but it received tuck-pointing and new windows. (Image courtesy Indiana State Fair Commission)

Senior executives at the commission are “absolutely talking with” potential sponsors who are interested in putting their name on the 75-year-old building, he said.

Klotz declined to speculate on when a sponsorship deal might be announced, but he said it shouldn’t be long.

“We just don’t have a finalized deal to announce yet,” he said.

To many, the fairgrounds facility is best-known as Pepsi Coliseum. The soft drink company acquired the naming rights for what was called the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum in 1991 and kept them until 2012, not long before the renovation was launched.

Pepsi was paying $170,000 per year for the naming rights when the contract ended. The fair commission sought to renew the deal at $500,000 per year, an amount on par with similar-sized arenas in other markets, but Pepsi declined.

Pepsi still maintains a sponsorship contract with the commission as the official beverage of the fairgrounds and the coliseum.

Coliseum basketball rendering 15colThe renovated interior includes a double-tiered seating bowl and overhead LED video scoreboard. It can be configured for several uses, including basketball (above), hockey (below), concerts and livestock events.
Coliseum basketball rendering 15col

Klotz said the next naming-rights deal will be far more lucrative than the previous one because of the major upgrades made to the facility and the likelihood the 8,200-seat arena will receive more national exposure.

“There’s quite a contrast between the old coliseum and the new one,” Klotz said. “There will be a new hockey team (Indy Fuel) with a bigger reach playing there, an NCAA Div. I basketball team (IUPUI) and more events that will attract national attention.”

Among those high-profile events will be the American Idol Live tour, which has booked an Aug. 6 stop at the coliseum. Other events in the Coliseum Concert Series will be announced Thursday.

The Indy Fuel, a minor league affiliate for popular Chicago Blackhawks franchise, will open its inaugural season in mid-October.

The IUPUI Jaguars will play all of their men’s home basketball games and some women’s games beginning this fall under a five-year contract with the fairgrounds.

Between the sports teams, concerts, conferences and Indiana State Fair events, the facility could be booked 300 days or more a year, Klotz said. The busier arena is expected to boost the already sizable economic impact of the fairgrounds.

The renovated coliseum will open to the general public for the first time Thursday during an open house from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The renovation is wrapping up about three months ahead of schedule.


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