The Greater Columbus Convention Center is examining selling its naming rights to a private entity.
The center's management plans to ask the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority Wednesday to allow it to hire a naming-rights consultant, which would be the first step to market the center's official name to a private bidder.
"That may take us months to get that done," said Don Brown, the center's executive director.
While the center has used the name Greater Columbus Convention Center under the theory that what it was selling to potential visitors was the city of Columbus itself, the financial strain caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused it to rethink that strategy, Brown said.
He declined to discuss what such a deal might fetch, saying that is for the consultant to report back to the board. "But it's probably not going to be as valuable as Staples Arena in Los Angeles," he said.
"Unlike a sports arena, we do not have TV coverage, radio coverage, (that are constantly repeating the name to the public in sports stories and broadcasts), so that makes a big difference in the value," Brown said.
But what the center does have is "a lot of foot traffic, we a lot of guests come through our doors," each of whom sees and uses the center's name repeatedly during visits, Brown said.
The consultant will be identified at the Wednesday meeting, Brown said.
The center is overseen by an 11-member board appointed by the Franklin County commissioners (six members), the city of Columbus (three members) and suburban mayors (two members).
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther supports the convention center exploring the option of a naming-rights deal, said Robin Davis, his spokeswoman.
Franklin County Administrator Ken Wilson also is supportive, but noted the center is a "a gateway to the community, so it will be important to select a partner whose values will represent central Ohio well," his office said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the Miami Beach Convention Center announced it was in negotiations for a 10-year naming rights deal with Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line.
The Miami Today newspaper reported that city, which owns the facility, would receive yearly payments starting at $1 million this year and rising to $1.25 million in 2031, for a total of $11.75 million over the 10-year period.
The Columbus facility counts on a thriving travel and entertainment economy to service its just-under $800 million in outstanding bond debt. More than half of that debt is related to building the combined Hilton Columbus Downtown, with one tower currently under construction and the other having opened in October 2012.
Operating revenue from the hotel and lease payments to the center from two other hotels, the adjacent Hyatt Regency and Drury Inn, plunged almost 93% in 2020 year of year, the center's state audit shows.
To pay debt service on its bonds, the convention center relies mostly on a 4% Franklin County hotel "bed tax" and another .9% city of Columbus bed tax, paid by customers booking rooms. That revenue plunged more than 60% during 2020, according to the center's state financial audit.
Combined, total revenue fell by about two-thirds, to $13.2 million, in 2020, but officials have pointed to rebounding 2021 bookings and believe its operations will return to near normal in the coming year.
The Dispatch reported in 2011 that Nationwide would pay the Columbus Blue Jackets $28.5 million over 10 years for arena naming rights as part of the deal for the public purchase Nationwide Arena, now owned by the Convention Authority.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Convention Center to look at name sale to boost revenue