Kimmel Center plans expansive naming-rights sale

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will use the sale of naming rights to the site, including its dome, to fund renovations and programs.

Want to attach your name to a highly visible downtown arts and entertainment center?

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts will put your name here, there - almost anywhere, for the right price. About $25 million gets you the space between the two main halls, currently known as Commonwealth Plaza. Entrances, staircases, or escalators and ancillary spaces are available for considerably less.

The results of the center's naming-rights valuation study are complete, and in recognition of a princely sum, the Kimmel Center is even willing to change the name of the organization. For $100 million, the Kimmel would grant a new umbrella name for its entire "campus" - which includes the Academy of Music and Merriam Theater (both of which it operates but does not own, and whose names would stay the same), as well as the two halls under the soaring glass dome at Broad and Spruce Streets.

Oh, and the name of the glass dome is also up for grabs.

The two buildings and site under the dome would continue to be known as the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

The sale of naming rights forms the bulk of the Kimmel's new five-year campaign - its biggest yet - to raise "north of $100 million," in the words of Kimmel president and CEO Anne Ewers. Proceeds would be used to fund further renovations to the main Kimmel site that opened in 2001, as well as some programs that go on inside.

The intention is to target mostly corporations for naming rights, thereby easing some of the fund-raising competition that goes on between the Kimmel and its own resident companies - though Ewers acknowledges she won't turn away offers from foundations or individuals. For any firm looking for a visibility boost, the idea promises a rare opportunity, according to the study, which uses a space-holder name in referring to what has heretofore been known as the Kimmel: "At this point in time, the Philadelphia Center for the Performing Arts represents the highest level of direct impact available for naming in the performing arts in North America.

"It certainly eclipses any performing arts naming opportunity that will become available in Philadelphia for generations," authors from Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates in Toronto wrote in an executive summary drawn from the study.

The Kimmel declined to provide the full study, but the summary lists three major naming opportunities. Sponsorship in perpetuity of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) was valued at between $28 million and $56 million; the price tag on the plaza was put at between $22 million and $25 million; and a name on the entire campus in perpetuity would take between $80 million and $100 million. Per-year naming rights of terms between 10 and 20 years would cost $5 million to $6 million annually for the campus, and between $1.4 million and $2.8 million annually for PIFA.

If the naming rights to the plaza, full campus, and PIFA were sold in perpetuity for the amounts the Kimmel seeks, the center could raise between $130 million and $181 million.

Ewers thinks she can get it. A separate consultant, Team Services, has been engaged to identify corporate sponsors, but Ewers is already testing the waters, and the response has been very positive, she said. "No one is signing on the dotted line, but they are impressed with the impact. It makes sense for a company about to move into this market to get their name out there, or one in the market who wants to expand what they want to do."

In terms of visibility, the Kimmel is making the argument, backed with research by Genovese Vanderhoof, that a major donor name would be seen more than 25 million times annually, with advertising, public relations, mailings, on-site visits, views of the arts center's website, and social media. The firm's study says new arts centers in Las Vegas and Kansas City - smaller markets than Philadelphia's - had drawn lucrative naming deals. "These centers, one of which encompasses a single theater, and the other, just two theaters, do not begin to equate with the impact and reach of the Philadelphia Center for the Performing Arts, yet they have attracted naming gifts greatly in excess of $100 million for naming rights in perpetuity."

Ewers says 75 percent of the campaign will come from naming rights, with the other 25 percent raised through traditional philanthropy. Proceeds will go toward building maintenance, completion of a renovation plan begun long ago by KieranTimberlake, free programming in the plaza every day, education and family programming, and endowment.

The exact dollar goal of the campaign, though clearly in excess of $100 million, is still uncertain because it hinges on whether the Kimmel can land all three naming opportunities at the high end of the expected range, a Kimmel representative said.

Completion is expected in 2020.

The naming rights of Verizon Hall are not being sold as part of this campaign because the current deal with Verizon does not expire until 2023.

Ewers said she had the blessing of arts center namesake Sidney Kimmel to name the entire campus and rename the organization. Kimmel pledged $12 million to the project originally, in 1993, when it was still envisioned as a new hall for the Philadelphia Orchestra designed by Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, and he has continued to make gifts.

"All told, he has now given over $60 million. He has been superb to us and is still interested and connected to us," said Ewers.

Raymond G. and Ruth Perelman gave $5 million in 1997, which granted them naming rights in perpetuity to the smaller, 650-seat recital hall, and they have since added to that, giving a total of more than $9 million. (Ruth Perelman died in 2011.)

The Kimmel struggled with debt after opening, but Ewers says she and the board are excited by the chance to unlock the value in big naming opportunities, as well as selling rights to smaller physical features for sums between $250,000 and $10 million.

Said Ewers: "At this point, I'll put a name on a stapler."

For the right price, of course.