The Toronto Raptors will only be playing at Air Canada Centre for one more season.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment have reached a naming-rights deal with Scotiabank that will see the Raptors’ home court renamed Scotiabank Arena beginning July 1, 2018. This comes according to a report from Rick Westhead of TSN, who notes that the new agreement spans 20 years and will be worth approximately $800 million in Canadian dollars. That would make it the highest-priced building sponsorship in North American sports history, per Westhead.
UPDATE: MLSE confirmed the report in a release Tuesday evening.
“To be honest, it wasn’t that difficult to find interested suitors,” MLSE COCO David Hopkinson told TSN. “This is already firmly established as Canada’s premier entertainment venue… We felt we had a very good sense about what the market would bear and Scotia and ourselves have agreed on what that number should look like.”
Air Canada had been the name of the venue since 1999 on a deal with an estimated value of $4 million per-year. The ACC currently plays home to the Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Toronto Rock, occasionally hosts Toronto Marlies and Raptors 905 games, and is one of the city’s premiere large-capacity concert and event venues. It’s also played host to four UFC pay-per-view events, the World Junior Hockey Championships, the World Cup of Hocker, the NHL and NBA All-Star Games, and even a major League of Legends event. It’s had a pretty good run, in other words.
“For the past 18 years, Air Canada Centre has not only been home to the Maple Leafs and Raptors, it has also hosted hundreds of the most popular concerts and events in the industry, helping contribute to Toronto’s well-deserved reputation as one of the top sports and entertainment destinations in the world,” MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum said in a release. “We are grateful to Scotiabank for their continued support and this expanded partnership as we look ahead to what we expect to be 20 of the most exciting years in Toronto sports and entertainment history.”
“As Canada’s flag carrier and North America’s Best Airline as ranked by the Skytrax World Airline Awards, we are proud to continue our partnership with MLSE as the Official Airline of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors,” Air Canada Preisdent of Passenger Airlines Benjamin Smith said. “We congratulate MLSE and Scotiabank as they build on the legacy we helped establish in 1999 and look forward to celebrating with fans and customers during our final season as title sponsor of the Air Canada Centre. Air Canada supports professional and amateur sports throughout Canada and our global hub in Toronto connects that city to the world, driving both the economy and communities.”
Scotiabank also owns naming rights to facilities in Calgary and Halifax and previously held them in Ottawa as they make a pretty clear play to corner that corner of the Canadian marketing space. MLSE has long had a partnership with BMO, including the naming deal for BMO Field (home of MLSE’s red-hot Toronto FC franchise, though it’s owned by the city) and a primary sponsorship with the Raptors, and one would think that would cause some issue as Scotiabank takes over sponsorship of the flagship real estate property. RBC was among the finalists, too, per Kristen Shilton. That may take some ironing out, but there are $800 million reasons to find a way.
Scotiabank will also remain the official banking partner of the Leafs, per a release, and Scotiabank will expand its partnership with MLSE Foundation. The two sides intend to collaborate with SCENE on some promotions, as well, and there are plans for an MLSE Incubator at the Scotiabank Digital Factory.
There’s not a lot to sort through here, really. It’s a corporate shift from one branded partnership to another, and a very lucrative one. While there’s certainly some history to the name (“Air Canada Carter” remains among the more fun Toronto sports nicknames of the last few decades), there’s not the sort of championship pedigree that made some so upset about the name change for SkyDome a while back. This is simply a matter of C.R.E.A.M., with the small cost of all of us having to remember to make the written and verbal adjustment by the time the 2018-19 season rolls around.
(Unless maybe I’m underestimating the degree to which this change will resonate with Raptors fans, in which case, I’m all ears on divergent takes.)