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Originally published Friday, January 21, 2011 at 6:42 PM

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KeyArena's name to change; bank drops sponsorship

Seattle Center officials are shopping the naming rights to KeyArena after KeyBank let its contract expire Dec. 31.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle Center officials are shopping the naming rights to KeyArena, the city's high-profile entertainment venue, after KeyBank let its contract expire Dec. 31.

Bill Boucher, KeyBank's regional marketing director, said the bank valued the presence it got from the sponsorship but decided not to renew the contract.

"Like every company, we continuously review our portfolio of sponsorships and strive to improve their impact and return on investment," Boucher said in a statement.

Cleveland-based KeyCorp, the bank's parent company, paid the city $300,000 annually for the past three years even though it could have walked away after the Sonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008. Before the team's departure, KeyCorp had paid the city $1.3 million a year since 1995.

In a statement Friday, Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams said he was confident the city would find a new partner.

"There's very strong interest by local and national companies that recognize this kind of title sponsorship opportunity doesn't come around often," Nellams said. The arena's 2011 event lineup, recent renovations and the upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, The Next Fifty, make the opportunity "very appealing," he said.

Deborah Daoust, a spokeswoman for Seattle Center, said she couldn't comment on what the city's timeline is for securing a naming-rights partner or how it might pursue one.

Bank of America recently chose not to renew its contract for naming rights to the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The college's 10-year deal for $5 million expired last year. For the next five years, the venue will be known as Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. This week, the airline reached a deal with the UW that's worth at least $700,000 annually.

Boucher said the bank isn't shying away from Seattle. Over the past 18 months, KeyBank has established new sponsorships with the Seattle Mariners, Tacoma Rainiers and Broadway Across America at the Paramount Theatre, Boucher said.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com

Material from Seattle Times archives was used in this article.

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