TRIADELPHIA — Ohio County Commission Chairman Randy Wharton believes the COVID-19 pandemic likely cost the county an earlier chance at the naming rights for the Highlands Sports Complex, and the revenue that would have resulted.
The money from these deals can be lucrative. The city of Bridgeport, West Virginia announced earlier this year that the indoor sports arena at the Bridge Sports Complex would be renamed Citynet Center. It came after Citynet signed a naming rights deal with Bridgeport worth $1 million over the next 10 years.
The Bridge Sports Complex – and now the Citynet Center – opened in June 2021.
The Highlands Sports Complex began operations a year prior in the summer of 2020 during the early months of the pandemic.
Owned by the Ohio County Development Authority, the local sports complex has yet to reach a naming rights agreement.
Wharton, who is also president of the OCDA, said the best time for the county to have signed such a contract would have been when it opened. But it was also the time when much of the country’s businesses were closing during COVID.
“COVID hit, and everything had to stop,” he said. “We probably missed some chances.
“It’s something we will continue to try to do,” Wharton added. “We will continue to market it.”
Both the Highlands Sports Complex and the Bridge Sports Complex are managed by the Sports Facilities Management Company of Clearwater, Florida. Employees at the company’s headquarters reportedly worked from home in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian on Friday and did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
“Currently, there’s nothing in the works that I’m aware of,” Wharton said of a naming rights deal. “The sports management group I know has pursued that, but I don’t know what kind of success they’ve had. It’s something we would certainly entertain.
Last year it was announced that the Robinson Automotive Group had approached the OCDA to negotiate a naming rights deal for the Highlands Sports Complex ground. The deal did not go through.
Ohio County Administrator Randy Russell said that while the sports complex still does not have a sponsor, county staff have not ignored the issue. They continue to search for potential partners to put a name to the exterior of the building.
“We’ve had conversations with some people,” Ohio County Administrator Randy Russell said. “But we’re not close yet.”
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