ALBANY – The downtown Albany sports and entertainment venue now known as the Times Union Center will soon be named MVP Health Care.
The facility’s owner, Albany County, announced Monday that it had voted in favor of the Schenectady-based health insurer’s naming rights proposal.
The five-year contract costs MVP $ 2 million a year – $ 600,000 for the name and $ 1.4 million for initiatives across the region to improve community health and tackle health inequality. There are two five-year options to renew the contract on the same terms.
With the approval of Albany County’s legislature, the name will be renamed January 1st. The new name will contain the letters M, V and P, but the county and insurer are still working on the exact wording, look and feel of the new arena identity.
Chris Del Vecchio, President and CEO of MVP Health Care, said Monday that the split annual payments reflect the twofold purpose of the company’s decision to secure the naming rights: to market MVP and promote its health initiatives in the community.
Most of MVP’s annual payment for the arena naming rights – $ 1.4 million in a community mutual fund – is a continuation of the work MVP is already doing.
In Albany County alone, MVP supports more than 50 community welfare organizations with grants or sponsorships.
When the Times Union newspaper recently decided not to renew its naming rights, MVP saw the opportunity.
“Over the past year we have been looking for like-minded organizations and providers,” said Del Vecchio, adding that Albany County Executive Director Daniel McCoy had set similar priorities and worked to provide access to health care to underserved communities in the district to enhance.
It is a brave step, said Del Vecchio, but this is a time that requires brave steps.
MVP’s $ 1.4 million annual spending is for not just Albany County but the region and beyond, he said.
MVP has 1,700 employees and 700,000 members in New York and Vermont.
The partnership with Albany County shares some similarities with MVP’s partnership with the University of Vermont, which leads new subscribers to a Medicare Advantage product that MVP offers in that state.
MVP looks for steps that each have several advantages.
An on-site farmers market would raise awareness of the arena and bring fresh healthy food to a neighborhood with few options to buy. Youth sports clinics would bring a new generation of residents into the building and promote healthy behavior. Off-site projects like a community fitness court along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail are entirely health-focused.
And all of these things would raise MVP’s profile.
“It’s a combination of our community engagement and marketing,” said Del Vecchio. “Some of them are just diversions.”
The district called the civic center Knickerbocker Arena when it opened in January 1990 and the Pepsi Arena brand in 1997 as part of the first naming agreement. The Times Union took over the name in 2007 but decided in September not to renew the contract.
MVP’s $ 600,000 a year is significantly more than the $ 350,000 TU paid.
Del Vecchio said there were about a dozen other entities in attendance on a tour of the arena with potential bidders for the naming rights. So MVP offered a sizeable amount of money but also tried to come up with a strong proposition beyond finance.
Albany County said it chose MVP over Berkshire Bank, MTX Group and Transfinder.
“We have received and reviewed great suggestions from several other companies, and I hope there will be future projects they might be involved in,” McCoy said in a press release. “However, MVP Health has shown that they share our values of health equity and community investment through a $ 1.4 million annual innovation fund that will help increase attendance at events at the MVP Arena to support our local businesses and help Albany County build on the progress we’ve made. “
The events in the Knickerbocker-Pepsi-TU-Arena have attracted more than 18 million viewers over the decades. Depending on the configuration, it offers space for 6,000 to 17,500 people.
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