For more than 30 years, the Arkansas State University Convocation Center has been a center for athletic competitions, concerts and business exhibitions in Northeast Arkansas. It became an arena on Thursday afternoon.
The facility has been renamed the First National Bank Arena after the banking company agreed to pay the Red Wolves Foundation $5 million during the next 12 years for the naming rights.
The ASU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the contract during a special meeting held inside the Convocation Center on Thursday afternoon. The money will be used to help offset needs in the athletic department, ASU Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir told Talk Business & Politics. Facility improvements, equipment upgrades, help with student-athlete academic programs, and other expenses, will be paid with these funds, he said. Each year the priority could be different, and the payments uses will be flexible.
“This naming rights partnership is a great testament to the students, faculty and staff who represent our university,” he said. “The fact that a strong business leader in our region chose to co-brand with our university speaks volumes about our emerging brand. We will continue to find creative ways to host exciting events in the First National Bank Arena in order to serve Northeast Arkansas and the region.”
The agreement will begin in January and will continue through Dec. 31, 2029. First National will pay $500,000 per year through 2027. The bank company will hold the first right of refusal once the agreement expires, according to the contract. If ASU builds a new arena, the naming rights will be transferred to that facility. While the agreement designates certain areas for competitor bank advertisements within the arena, First National will be allowed to use the Red Wolves brand in advertising campaigns.
First National Bank Vice-Chairman Will Brewer said he was pleased with the new partnership.
“First National Bank has always been committed to supporting the communities we serve, and I couldn’t think of a better way to do that than partnering with Arkansas State University,” he said.
The 207,507-square-foot facility was first opened in May 1987. It’s first athletic contest was a college volleyball game between ASU and Southeast Missouri State on Sept. 28, 1987. The arena has a 10,563 seating capacity for athletic events and up to 11,704 for concerts. It’s never had a commercially branded name.
First National Bank was founded in 1889, and has 14 locations throughout Arkansas. It has $1.3 billion in total assets. It’s among the 5% of all banks nationwide to receive a five-star rating from Bauer Financial. It has held this rating for 27 straight years.
“Like the Convocation Center itself, First National Bank has been a major presence in our region for many years and so it’s only fitting that our magnificent facility bear the First National name,” ASU System President Chuck Welch said.