The Baltimore Arena will be getting a face-lift quickly, with the city expected to select Royal Farms on Wednesday as the venue's new title sponsor.
The Baltimore-based chain of convenience stores known for its fried chicken has agreed to pay $250,000 per year for five years to name the 14,000-seat arena the Royal Farms Arena. If approved, the new name would go into effect Nov. 1, according to the agenda for Wednesday's Board of Estimates meeting.
Efforts to reach leaders of the 160-store business, which operates in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, were unsuccessful Monday evening.
The new agreement would give Royal Farms first crack at negotiating a new naming rights deal, even if the facility relocates or is redeveloped. The city has responsibilities related to the design, construction, installation and maintenance of the building's signs.
The manager of the Baltimore Arena, SMG Holdings, would receive $200,000 of the $1.25 million contract, with $50,000 for a "finder's fee" and the remaining $150,000 to be dedicated to signage.
SMG, which has managed the venue since 1999 and won a renewal of its contract in 2012, could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
Known as the Baltimore Civic Center when it opened in 1962, the venue changed its name to the Baltimore Arena in 1986.
In 2002, it became known as the 1st Mariner Arena, after Edwin F. Hale Sr., the owner of the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team and founder of First Mariner Bancorp, agreed to pay the city $75,000 a year for naming rights. At the time, Hale was the sole bidder, despite city hopes that the rights would yield a $450,000 minimum bid.
That agreement expired in 2013, as the relationship soured between Hale, the city and SMG Holdings. The city issued a request for proposals in December 2012.
In March 2013, Hale's Arena Ventures LLC filed suit against SMG Holdings over nine billboards Hale had erected at the downtown venue. Hale, who later told The Baltimore Sun he had offered to buy the arena, claimed the billboards belong to him; the city said it owned them.
The lawsuit is continuing, with a settlement conference scheduled for November.
While $250,000 a year represents a jump from the previous $75,000, it is small compared to other recent naming rights deals.
"We're excited to enter into this agreement with Royal Farms," said Kaliope Parthemos, chief of staff to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "We think it is a good deal for the city."
M&T Bank agreed in May to pay $60 million over 10 years to extend its partnership with the Ravens through 2027, including naming rights to the stadium. Under its original 2003 agreement, M&T paid $5 million a year for the naming rights.
Comcast is paying the University of Maryland $20 million over 25 years under a 2002 deal to name the school's basketball arena. It changed the name from Comcast Center to Xfinity Center.
The Baltimore Development Corp. sought proposals for a new arena in 2007 in hopes of eventually attracting an NBA franchise. As of last year, the city was reviewing a proposal by the Greater Baltimore Committee to build a new arena connected to an expanded convention center, but little progress has been made.
Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this story.