The West

Arena s $1m blame game
Arena's $1m blame game

WA taxpayers will forgo more than $1 million a year in lost revenue after the Barnett Government abandoned plans to sell commercial naming rights to the $549 million Perth Arena.

_The Weekend West _has learnt that venue management company AEG Ogden was in advanced negotiations with at least one commercial partner, believed to be a big Eastern States banking and insurance group, for naming rights.

But the Government ordered AEG Ogden to halt the negotiations because it wanted to retain the Perth Arena moniker in a decision that will cost taxpayers millions in forgone income and has sparked a renegotiation of the venue's management contract. Industry sources said the value of naming rights to the complex, which opens tonight with a sold-out Elton John concert, was more than $1 million a year.

It is understood stockbroking firm Patersons pays more than $700,000 a year for the naming rights to Subiaco Oval, but the industry considers the Arena to be a far more valuable property.

This is because - despite its tortured history of budget and deadline overruns - the finished product is "clean", unburdened by previous names and considered a world-class stadium that will attract shows of an international calibre.

Corporate naming rights have been sold to nearly every arena constructed worldwide in the past 20 years as public and private venue owners seek to meet capital and running costs.

The Government's September 2011 media release, announcing AEG Ogden would manage the venue, quoted the company's executive chairman Harvey Lister as saying: "We look forward to hitting the ground running by securing a naming rights sponsor and selling the corporate suites."

Premier Colin Barnett said yesterday the Government had taken a view that naming rights "would not be appropriate for such a significant piece of State-owned infrastructure".

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said the Premier had to explain why he was forgoing up to $1.5 million a year that could pay for Government programs.

"There's nothing stopping it being called the Suncorp Perth Arena, or whatever corporate name ends up winning the bid," he said.

"I don't have any problem with naming rights at all, it's a reality of modern arenas and it doesn't mean the identity of Perth has to be lost.

"If the taxpayer is going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars, you would expect the Government to ensure it maximises its return."

Sports Minister Terry Waldron said AEG Ogden had raised with the Government the commercial implications of rejecting the sale of naming rights "and this is being considered in the context of the commercial contractual agreement between AEG and the State".

The West Australian

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