Oak View Group chief executive Tim Leiweke has been touting the under-construction arena in the Coachella Valley as a game-changer for sports and entertainment in the region.
Now that arena has an official name.
Acrisure, a Michigan-based fintech insurance company, has purchased naming rights for the facility in a 10-year deal announced Wednesday afternoon, providing Leiweke and OVG with a strategic ally in that ambitious vision for the valley.
Located along Interstate 10 near Palm Desert, Acrisure Arena is the $300 million facility set to open by the end of the year.
This is the first stadium or arena sponsorship for Acrisure.
“We are proud to announce our naming rights agreement with Acrisure,” said Leiweke, whose company has partnered with Live Nation and the Seattle Kraken to build the arena with private funding. “Acrisure Arena will be the crown jewel of the entire Coachella Valley and a major destination for the biggest artists, concerts, and sporting events in the world.”
The Coachella Valley Firebirds, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, will play at Acrisure Arena. Around 40 home hockey games, more than 40 concerts and 150 other events, from professional and college sports to family shows, are expected to fill the approximately 11,500-seat venue year-round.
The partnership between OVG and Acrisure came together quickly. About four months ago, Dan Griffis, OVG’s president of global partnerships, was catching up with a friend who works for Acrisure. They realized that their companies had similar goals and ideals, and after Griffis mentioned the new arena being built, his friend spoke to Acrisure co-founder and chief executive Gregory L. Williams about a potential partnership.
“It was kind of a quick courtship,” Williams told The Desert Sun in an exclusive interview ahead of the announcement. “We met at (OVG built) UBS Arena in New York, and we had a chance to first-hand see the quality of the team and what they aspire to build and bring to their respective market places. …California is our largest concentration of clients, so it all made sense.”
Acrisure already does significant business in California and specifically the Coachella Valley. Of the 110 private golf clubs in the valley, Leiweke said that 90 of them work with Acrisure.
While OVG has not provided specifics about the financials of the deal, Griffis told The Desert Sun that the naming rights for the arena were sold for about five times the average for an AHL arena, which is typically six-figures. He said that the naming rights for this arena went for much more than the average because of the anticipation of the quality of the arena, the location and the connection to Live Nation.
“We didn’t sell this as a hockey arena,” Griffis said. “We sold it as a venue that will bring world-class events and will draw people from Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and beyond.”
Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., Acrisure is a rapidly growing leader in the financial services technology industry. The company provides customers with intelligence-driven financial services solutions for insurance, reinsurance, asset management, real estate services and cyber services. Over the last eight years, the company has grown its revenue from $38 million to more than $3.3 billion and currently maintains locations in nine countries. Acrisure has around 900 employees.
Acrisure has more than 150 offices in California, and Williams said his company was attracted to the naming rights of the arena in an effort to create brand awareness of what Acrisure is and what it wants to do for its clients and in the communities it serves.
“It presented a very unique opportunity with people we got to know very quickly and were very impressed with everything they’re doing,” Williams said.
Griffis said that OVG could have partnered with at least 20 different companies who would put their name on the arena, but because Acrisure’s corporate values align perfectly with OVG, this relationship was an easy one to make. He said that both companies believe in giving back to the communities where they put their financial investments, and that the valley should expect Acrisure to have a significant positive influence on the community.
“The valley should be doing backflips over this partnership,” Griffis said.
In addition to securing naming rights to the arena, the agreement with Acrisure includes permanent exterior signage, entitlement to the arena’s largest premium private hospitality space and prominent Acrisure logo placement on the roof, center ice, and scoreboards throughout the venue.
But it doesn’t appear that Acrisure will sit idly and simply use the arena to promote its business.
Williams, the Acrisure CEO, has worked closely with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Grammy winner Ciara, and NBA star Russell Westbrook on the creation of Evolution Advisors. The joint venture is focused on the insurance and financial service needs of minorities and diverse communities.
Acrisure’s chief financial officer, Lowell Singer, worked for The Walt Disney Company for 14 years and played a key role in acquiring Marvel, the Star Wars film franchise from Lucasfilm, 21st Century Fox and in its launch of streaming services including Disney+.
Matthew Marolda, the chief innovation officer at Acrisure, previously was president of WarnerMedia’s applied analytics division, which uses data and analytics to drive strategic, marketing and creative decisions with Warner Bros., HBO, CNN, TNT/TBS and Turner Sports.
“Acrisure Arena reflects our commitment to raising awareness of the multiple financial solutions we’re proud to offer our customers. California is home to the greatest number of Acrisure clients and is the perfect market for us to enter into this type of naming rights opportunity,” Williams said. “As we’ve grown significantly, we are proud to contribute to the continued growth and development of the Coachella Valley and look forward to the benefits this facility brings to the local community as well as our customers.”
The arena building site is located in the heart of the Coachella Valley, on 43.35 acres — north of Interstate 10, near the Cook Street exit — of land owned by the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. The arena will be more than 300,000 square feet and include modern suites and four premium hospitality clubs available to 920 premium seats and suite ticketholders. It will include an adjoining facility that will serve as a year-round community gathering space and the training center for the Firebirds.
Design of the building is focused on prioritizing technology, sustainability, and green initiatives. It is expected that the arena will host some of the biggest names in the music industry on an annual basis, OVG partner Irving Azoff said. In addition to sports and entertainment, the arena will accommodate conventions, large meetings, international events as well as award shows and exhibitions.
Construction on the arena began last June with a projected 16-18 month timeline. Arena project manager Mike Arnold of CAA ICON said last week that construction of the building is on schedule and the first of four steel roof trusses was installed Tuesday. Arnold said he expects the building to be sealed in from the outside by next month.
Leiweke has said all along that he wanted to do something big in the Coachella Valley. His company opened Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle in October and UBS Arena on Long Island in November, but he said the arena in the Coachella Valley is particularly special as he and several other partners have homes here.
OVG believes that this partnership with Acrisure takes their vision for this venue one step closer to reality.
“They believe in the project,” Leiweke said, “they believe in us, they believe in the foundation, they believe in the platform to make a difference in the lives of those that are in need in the Coachella Valley and they also believe in bringing world-class entertainment to Coachella Valley and they’re going to help us get there.”
Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and the USA Today Network. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and find him on Twitter at @Andrew_L_John.