Air Canada Centre changing name to Scotiabank Arena next summer

Faizal Khamisa and Chris Johnston discuss the breaking news that the Air Canada Centre will be known as the Scotiabank Arena next summer.

TORONTO – The Air Canada Centre is getting a new name and Scotiabank had to open the vault to make it happen.

The bank has agreed to a 20-year deal worth approximately $800-million, according to sources, that will see the home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors renamed Scotiabank Arena starting next July 1.

It is believed to be the largest sponsorship of its kind in North America and represents an astronomical increase on the $30-million Air Canada paid for the original naming rights when the building opened in 1999.

The announcement comes following a competitive round of negotiations involving several companies. Scotiabank held a provision in a pre-existing deal with the Leafs to get a shot at the naming rights if Air Canada elected not to renew them.

“Over the past many years, we’ve had a number of parties approach us and inquire: ‘Hey, if those naming rights ever become available we’d love to have a conversation about it,”’ Dave Hopkinson, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s chief commercial officer, said Tuesday in an interview. “Of course, we kept track of all those conversations – all the interested parties – and started early this calendar year seeing who was interested in having a serious conversation about it.”

The deal allows Scotiabank to further deepen its ties to hockey.

The company already holds naming rights on the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary and Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, and is a longstanding NHL partner. It also has its name on Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey and Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, among many other initiatives.

Seizing an opportunity to get its name and logo on an arena in downtown Toronto was a natural extension of those other partnerships.

“There’s obviously the brand value of just the consumer being aware of it, but where it really makes a difference for us is when we earn our way into the activation and relevance,” said John Doig, Scotiabank’s vice-president and chief marketing officer. “We don’t sell hockey sticks and skates so as a bank we have to be making sure every day that we’re working very hard to be relevant.

“It has to be way more than a name on the side of the building; this can’t be a logo at centre ice and nothing else around it in the community.”

The cost of naming rights on sports buildings has risen sharply in recent years. Citi Field in New York and Barclays Center in Brooklyn each bring in about $20-million per year, according to the New York Times, with AT&T Stadium in Dallas coming in around $19-million.

It’s little wonder why sports fans in this city will soon have to adjust to a new name.

“It will be a change,” said Hopkinson. “It will be a change to the landscape of Toronto.”

The building will continue to be known as Air Canada Centre throughout the coming NHL and NBA seasons.