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University of Maryland arena is rechristened Xfinity Center

The University of Maryland's Comcast Center, home of the school's basketball teams, is being renamed the Xfinity Center at the request of the media and technology giant, which is eager to promote its "Xfinity" brand.

Comcast has held naming rights under a $20 million, 25-year agreement since the arena opened in 2002. The terms allow Comcast to change the name with Maryland's consent.

The change is effective immediately. A university news release referred to the building, which also houses other teams as well as the athletic department offices, as "the arena formerly known as the Comcast Center." A university website already has replaced references to Comcast Center with the new title. New signage, to be paid for by Comcast, is expected to be in place by the end of August.

Xfinity is Comcast's brand for its television, Internet and phone service. It was unveiled in 2010 to create buzz about its products in its competition with Verizon and other providers. There is also an Xfinity Center in Massachusetts, but it's an outdoor music venue.

"The renaming of the venue reflects the brand's strong awareness and resonance with consumers," Comcast said in a statement.

Under the original agreement, announced in 2000, Comcast also provides basic cable to the university's residence halls.

At the time, the $20 million deal ranked among the largest naming sponsorships in college athletics, joining Wisconsin's Kohl Center, Fresno State's Save Mart Center and others.

The benefits of naming rights agreements in college sports remain uncertain.

"That doesn't mean they don't get some sort of goodwill out of it," said UMBC sports economist Dennis Coates. "They must be doing it because they think it generates profit."

Changing the Comcast Center's name "is kind of an unusual case" because it doesn't involve a new corporate player, Coates said. "Usually it's a complete change in the company."

In 2012, the basketball court was named for former men's coach Gary Williams. That designation is not affected by the new arena name.

The arena seats up to 17,950 for basketball. It opened for basketball one season after the Maryland men's team won its first national championship.

"We have enjoyed a long standing and successful partnership with Comcast for more than a decade, and are excited to extend this relationship with the renaming of the Xfinity Center," said, Kevin Anderson, Maryland's athletics director, in a statement. "It is our goal to continue to provide our fans with a special game day experience, and we look forward to unveiling new amenities at the Xfinity Center in the near future."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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