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Arena scraps Royal Farms name, searches for next title sponsor

Baltimore ended its naming rights agreement with Royal Farms in March. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Along with its upcoming redevelopment, the Baltimore Arena — formerly known as Royal Farms Arena — will also get a brand-new name. 

The city terminated its naming rights agreement with Royal Farms, a Baltimore-based chain of convenience stores and gas stations known for its signature fried chicken, in late March, after the arena in Downtown Baltimore hosted the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament in late February. 

Under the city’s agreement with developer Oak View Group, which is leading the $150 million renovation, OVG has the rights to sell sponsorships, including the arena’s title, the names of suites and more.

Colin Tarbert, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation, Baltimore’s economic development agency, said Friday that OVG is looking for these sponsors.  

“They’ve been actively looking, so I’m sure the intent is to close the deal as soon as possible so the title sponsor has the benefit of all of the announcements that will happen even prior to the opening,” he said. 

Titles of arenas can become iconic parts of the facilities’ identities, marketing strategies and legacy. The next name of the Baltimore Arena could help shape its path forward as it attempts to become a more modernized entertainment venue, anchoring Baltimore’s tourism and hospitality scene.

The arena had been named after Royal Farms since 2014, when Baltimore inked a $1.25 million, five-year naming agreement with the company. In 2016, the city extended the deal another three years, through the end of 2022.

Baltimore will have to pay Royal Farms a termination fee under the agreement, Tarbert said. On top of that, the city is considering reimbursing Royal Farms for a portion of what it paid for naming rights during COVID-19, as the value of the sponsorship depreciated during the first 18 months of the pandemic, when the arena was shuttered.

The city has come to an agreement with Royal Farms regarding these payments, he said, but those terms are not yet public as they have yet to be approved by the Board of Estimates.

For the time being, the space is being referred to simply as the Baltimore Arena, a title that the arena also used in the period between being named 1st Mariner Arena, for the bank that was later acquired by Howard Bank, and Royal Farms Arena.

The moniker appears on the arena’s new website, www.baltimorearena.com, and several social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, called it the New Baltimore Arena. Even the Google Maps listing for the arena now lists it as Baltimore Arena.

Royal Farms declined to comment, but Tarbert said the company had expressed interest in potentially moving forward with some sort of sponsorship deal with the new arena. It had previously been a sponsor of the arena while it was named 1st Mariner Arena.

The name change will come alongside a $150 million renovation to the arena that was first announced in June of last year. The project, which is under construction with plans to be completed in time for the next CIAA tournament in February of 2023, includes plans for updated seating, new concessions vendors and more amenities for guests.

The development and operating agreement with Baltimore Arena Company LLC, a partnership between OVG and Thirty Five Ventures, an investment firm co-founded by Prince George’s County-raised basketball star Kevin Durant, was approved by the Board of Estimates in November. 

Tarbert said he expects the next title sponsor of the arena will likely pay more annually than Royal Farms did — $250,000 per year. 

“(OVG is) looking to match the title sponsorship with the new level of the building,” he said. “The building is going to be improved, I think they’re going to be looking to get more value for the title sponsorship.”