Scotiabank Arena – everyone is focusing on the WRONG name change

Posted August 2017 | Written By David Seigel

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It seems everyone in Toronto is analyzing this name change. Air Canada vs. Scotiabank. A national airline vs. a national bank. Similar corporate colours. Almost 20 years of roots vs. the new name.

Toronto never seems to embrace name changes, and this one is certainly being questioned.

In 1999, Maple Leaf Gardens was replaced. Not just the name, but the entire venue itself. The brand new state of the art venue was named the Air Canada Centre. Air Canada has paid as much as $4 million per year to have its name attached to a building known for hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Rock, concerts, comedians, wrestling and so much more.

Scotiabank has agreed to pay $800 million for 20 years to rename the venue the “Scotiabank Arena”. That works out to $40 million per year. 10 times as much as Air Canada was paying.

In 2006, Toronto’s beloved Skydome was renamed the Rogers Centre. There were a LOT of upset people, and to this day over a decade later, many still cling to calling it by its original name. Many asked how they could change the name of the iconic venue in which the Jays won two world series. The answer was simple though – Rogers bought the dome, they bought the Jays, and they knew with many other venues across North America generating revenue from selling naming rights, they had a valuable asset they could utilize for their own brand. Of course they put their name on it.

The difference is: they owned it. It made sense for Rogers to put their name on their own building where their own team played.

Scotiabank does not own (or have any stake in) MLSE. They certainly don’t own this venue. So this seems a lot more random and disconnected. Of course, the same can be said about Air Canada, so that’s an apples to apples comparison. Scotia has certainly been an official sponsor throughout the NHL for a while, so the strategy is in line with what they’ve been doing.

When I saw the news and read some similar analysis about the sponsors, it occurred to me that I think everyone is focused on the WRONG name change.

In regards to Scotiabank, this financial institution already owned naming rights to a Canadian NHL arena – from 2006 – 2013, the Ottawa Senators played their games at Scotiabank Place (since renamed Canadian Tire Place). In 2010, Scotiabank put their name in front of the Saddledome in Calgary, where the Flames play. In Nova Scotia, the Halifax Metro Centre was renamed in 2015 to Scotiabank Centre.

And that is why the Air Canada Centre can’t be simply renamed the Scotiabank Centre – because it already exists. So now Toronto has Scotiabank Arena.

“Arena”. THAT to me is the aspect that absolutely sucks!

Our “centre” has been demoted to an “arena”. An arena sounds so much smaller. An arena is where you take the kids for skating lessons. An arena is where you buy a terrible hamburger because you forgot to eat before leaving the house. An arena is where you play pickup hockey at 11PM on a Tuesday and that one guy plays like it’s game 7 of the Stanley Cup while everyone else shakes their heads and laughs on the bench.

A centre, on the other hand, is where you watch the most exciting young team in the NHL break a playoff drought. A centre is where the professional basketball team comes within 2 games of making the finals. A centre is where the biggest bands in the world blast their hits and almost deafen you. A centre is where thousands converge for the most special events that truly make Toronto a global megacity.

For $800 million, whether it’s a centre, an arena, a place, a barn… all Scotiabank cares about is that their name and logo are on the building.

So if they’re ok with it, and they’re the ones paying the bill, who am I to express disappointment in the word that comes after their name?

And for MLSE? Well, when Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander require their huge new contracts in a couple of years, that extra $36 million per year in revenue is certainly going to come in handy.

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