Rendering for Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, following a $33-million renovation and a newly-announced name change to Cross Insurance Arena. 

Befitting the call of the industry, Cross Insurance came to the aid of a friend in need when the Maine-based company signed a 10-year, $2.5-million naming rights agreement that will now make Portland, Maine’s 7,000-seat Cumberland County Civic Center the Cross Insurance Arena.

The multipurpose sports and entertainment venue underwent a $33-million renovation and expansion and reopened in February 2014 following 15 months of construction work. This came on the heels of a renovation bond approved by Cumberland County taxpayers in November 2011 that allowed for the needed upgrades to a venue that opened in 1977. The commitment from Cross Insurance will provide significant revenue toward repayment of the bond.

“Maine is our home (based in Bangor) and we wanted to be supportive,” said Brent Cross, executive VP at Cross Insurance. “They needed the help and we wanted to support them so we decided to jump on it and to name it as well.”

Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center’s board of trustees, was pleased to see the deal delivered to a state-based company, one whose name is also on the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor for 15 years.

“We had a number of opportunities that we had explored over the past many months through our marketing agent Front Row Marketing and, when this one came about as a possibility, we started having initial discussions,” he said. “It appeared to us very quickly that this might be a nice fit and certainly we were well aware of Cross Insurance as a name-based business and terrific group of folks by reputation, as well as those of us who have had the opportunity to meet some of them in business circles. We knew it was a terrific company and given the terms of the deal it took very little time (to complete the deal), all things considered to work out. It was a natural.”

Pratt credited the community with passing the renovation bond referendum during tough economic times.

“This needed to happen and was approved by about a 60/40 vote,” he said. “The building was 35 years old at the time (of the referendum) and has been a tremendous asset for the region in terms of cultural and economic and all the things that these kinds of arenas provide. But it definitely was in need of some improvements. We were concerned that if we didn’t do something that it would lose its place here in the competitive market among arenas in the region. We knew we had to do something so we campaigned pretty hard and made a case to the public that the significant investment that we sought was worthwhile.”

Pratt said a naming rights arrangement was always in the picture as something “we had to explore and we knew eventually we would get. Fortunately, we got a good one.”

Renovations include expanded lobby areas, concessions, accessibility, storage, loading dock capability, restrooms, locker rooms, luxury suites and premium seating as well as upgrades to safety and security.

In addition to supporting a venue in the state, Cross is happy about the exposure having his company’s name on the venue will offer.

“We will have some exterior signage and a little interior signage but, more importantly from our standpoint, is we get promoted,” he said. “That includes the website, email, television, newspaper and radio promotion of an event that’s held there.”

Cross Insurance also has marketing relationships with the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins and New England Patriots, and aggressively markets its company name. Now, they are in a venue where the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League serve as a long-standing primary tenant, which got Pratt to thinking about the history of the building.

“This was built in 1977 and, just to show you how long ago that was, this was the arena that Elvis Presley was to play the day he died. He was just getting ready to leave for the airport to come to Portland to perform at the then-new civic center. That’s how long ago it was.”

Interviewed for this article: Brent Cross, (207) 974-9806; Neal Pratt, (207) 430-8897