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Edmonton’s biggest rec centres face name change in new sponsorship deal

The City of Edmonton is aiming to make new money by selling the rights to rename some of its recreation facilities. 

Roger Jevne, branch manager of community recreation and culture, said administration has drafted a deal with a company to rename the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre.  

Jevne presented the agreement to council’s community and public services committee last week.

Most of the proposed terms and the name of the company remain in private but Jevne said it could generate $150,000 a year, if council approves. 

Jevne described the initiative as a low-risk partnership with a local company whose brand promotes sport and healthy lifestyle. 

A sponsorship deal could “help offset a portion of the city’s operating expenses and the amount of tax levy needed to support our popular sport and recreation facilities.”

Not everyone’s a fan of the idea.

“I guess my biggest concern is really losing the city’s identity or downplaying the city’s identity on the facilities,” said Jo-Anne Wright, councillor for Ward Sspomitapi. 

In an interview with CBC News Tuesday, Wright noted that the city and taxpayers paid to build the centres. 

“I think if people you know see it as the XYZ recreation facility, people might be led to believe that it was XYZ corporation that built it rather than the City of Edmonton.”

Coun. Andrew Knack and Tim Cartmell said they support the initiative.

“I don’t think the community’s sense of identity will be lost in the corporate renaming, I think that will be done in such a way that acknowledges the corporate sponsor while maintaining the community connections,” said Cartmell in an email to CBC.

The city has been drafting sponsorship deals since city council directed it to pursue the new revenue making course in 2020, Jevne noted.

Terwillegar is one of five on the city’s current sponsorship renaming roster. 

Clareview Community Recreation Centre, Meadows Community Recreation Centre, Lewis Farms Community Recreation Centre are also on the list.  

Re/MAX Field in Rossdale was renamed in 2021 on a five-year contract from the previous Telus Field and before that, the Edmonton Ballpark. 

End of an era

Laura Cunningham-Shpeley, executive director of the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, said residents lobbied for many years to have the Terwillegar centre built,

“There’s history there,” she told CBC News Tuesday. “It is a loss, it is a bit of an end of an era.”

But she said the public demand for the recreation centres is huge and she supports the city in its efforts to keep the facilities affordable. 

“I think losing the facility or losing that access is of greater importance and so if this is what the city needs to do to keep these facilities vibrant and active, affordable places for Edmontonians, then that’s what we can agree to.”

The proposed name for the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre remains confidential until the deal is finalized. 

City council is scheduled to vote on it at a meeting May 14.

If council approves the deal, Jenve said he believes the details of the contract would remain private. 

Estimated revenue in budget

Although the deal is pending council approval, the Community Recreation and Culture branch has included the money it anticipates to make from the naming rights agreement in its budget. 

The branch estimates it will receive $150,000 in 2024 and each year after on an ongoing basis, Jevne told the committee. 

“This has been included in our revenue expectations,” Jevne told the committee last week. “If we don’t earn them, then we’ll have a bit of a deficit on the revenue side.”

Wright questioned why the branch would count on the revenue before council gave the deal the green light. 

“To me, it’s kind of counting your chickens before they’re hatched,” Wright said during the committee meeting. 

The city’s naming committee, which usually makes recommendations on changing or naming neighbourhoods, areas, buildings, and wards, isn’t part of the sponsorship name sale process. 

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