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Old 07 August 2007, 21:27   #19
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Thumbs down What's in a name? Not Amiga

What's in a name? Not Amiga
by Steve Hunter
The search has started for a new naming rights sponsor for the Kent Events Center.

City officials ended the naming rights agreement with Amiga, Inc., on Tuesday when the computer software company failed to make an initial payment of $2.5 million by the set deadline of July 30.

Amiga, with offices in Issaquah and New York, agreed in April to pay $10 million over 20 years, including an initial payment of $2.5 million when construction started.

Construction started this week on the $73.8 million arena, thanks to a final vote on the cost by the City Council last week.

With Amiga out, city officials don’t appear overly stressed about finding another suitor for the center’s name.

“There’s been so much interest generated in the facility that it will be a short period of time before it happens,” Council member Ron Harmon predicated Tuesday about the potential to find a new sponsor. “It renews interest in the center for someone to step up to the plate.”

Amiga President Bill McEwen did not answer or return several phone calls from the Reporter that were left at his Issaquah office. In May, McEwen told the Reporter that his company had the money to make that upfront payment.

But during negotiations between the city and Amiga over the last few weeks, Amiga officials responded to the city by asking to make a reduced payment, City Administrator John Hodgson said. City officials wouldn’t lower the amount.

City officials originally asked Amiga make the initial payment before the first day of construction because news reports showed the company had a history of financial troubles. The company, with McEwen at the helm, agreed to the request.

“It’s disappointing the agreement couldn’t be adhered to as originally proposed,” Harmon said. “But it’s an opportunity to pursue another avenue.”

The events center, slated to open in December 2008, will be the new home of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. The Thunderbirds now play at KeyArena in Seattle. The center also will be a venue for concerts, graduation ceremonies and other events — with projections at 120 events per year.

Council member Tim Clark, who declined to comment on the failed agreement with Amiga but was willing to talk about future prospects for the center, said he expects the city will find another namesake.

“I’m optimistic,” Clark said. “There are not that many live-event venues in South County. With the prosperity we’ve seen at Kent Station, there will be heavy traffic at the events center.”

Finding a company willing to pay as much as Amiga had promised could be a challenge.

“I don’t think we’ll get someone to pay that amount of money,” Clark said. “It will be difficult to find someone to pay $2 million all at once.”

Despite the potential loss of the namin- rights money, the events center will be built. Most of the funds will be from bonds issued by the city that will be paid back over 30 years from revenue raised at the center.

“It’s not a project-stopper,” Harmon said. “We’ve got to move on.”

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6724 or
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