The downtown Baltimore arena has a new name: CFG Bank Arena.
The city-owned facility held an unveiling ceremony Monday afternoon attended by city officials and a few celebrities. The downtown arena has undergone multiple name changes in its 60-year history and was known recently as Royal Farms Arena and Baltimore Arena. The price of the naming rights was not disclosed at Monday’s unveiling.
The aging facility, originally called the Civic Center, closed earlier this year for $200 million of renovations and is expected to reopen early next year. The newly christened CFG Bank Arena will host the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s basketball tournaments in February and recently announced upcoming performances by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and blink-182, whose original lineup reunited this year.
“God Bless Bruce Springsteen for adding this date as a favor because he believes in this building and he believes in this city,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, the California investment firm overseeing the renovation after winning a bid from the city last year. “This is going to work, folks. This isn’t a ‘I think it could work.’ This is gonna work.”
In exchange for the $200 million renovation, Oak View Group will lease the 15,000-person capacity arena from the city of Baltimore for the next 30 years. The arena is older than the current iteration of Madison Square Garden, which opened in 1968 and is the oldest NBA arena in the country.
Speaking at a lectern in the arena’s lobby, Leiweke hinted at the arena’s name ahead of the official unveiling.
“It’s pretty obvious,” Leiweke said. “The guy from CFG is sitting in the front row.”
That guy, CFG Bank CEO Bill Wiedel, said he initially thought there was a 5% chance CFG Bank’s name would end up on the renovated arena, but he’s proud it’s there.
“The CFG Bank Arena reinforces our commitment to Baltimore and our leadership position not only in the banking industry, but in the Baltimore business community,” Wiedel said.
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The Baltimore-based bank traces its roots to La Corona Building and Loan Association, founded in Highlandtown in 1927. The bank, which has branches in Fells Point and Lutherville-Timonium, was purchased in 2009 by businessman Jack Dwyer, who also owns Capital Funding Group. It is the Baltimore region’s seventh-largest bank with $2.7 billion in deposits.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who was introduced by former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, rattled off some of the artists who have performed at the arena, including The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Prince.
“This arena is a major player in the renaissance taking place in Charm City,” Scott said. “And I’m not just excited about the new name, I’m excited about what’s to come in the [newly] named arena here in Baltimore.”
Basketball star and Maryland-raised Kevin Durant invested in the project through his firm Thirty Five Ventures, as well as Pharrell Williams, a Grammy Award-winning musician who attended Monday’s unveiling.
“This is going to change things,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of energy here now. There’s a lot of business here. Now there’s a lot of opportunity today, but you wait and see what’s going to happen over the next three, four years. This is going to be a game changer.”
At a June groundbreaking ceremony, Leiweke said Oak View Group will pay the city $1.75 million annually, and that amount will rise with inflation.
According to financial details presented to the city’s Board of Estimates last year, Baltimore will refund any city taxes generated above that annual payment, effectively capping the taxes paid by Oak View Group. If the arena hits a certain level of profitability, Oak View Group will have to pay a quarter of all “arena distributable cash” to the city, a so-called “landlord upside” agreement.