Is the RP Funding Center getting a new name? The city of Lakeland is currently negotiating naming rights for the performing arts/sports/convention center that opened as The Lakeland Civic Center in 1974, morphed into The Lakeland Center in 1996 and was rechristened as RP Funding Center in 2017.
The 2017 name change was part of a multi-million, five-year deal that included naming rights and making the center the home of the Lakeland Magic, the G-League affiliate of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. At the time, Robert Palmer, owner of the Orlando-based RP Funding mortgage lending company, noted he had graduated from Lakeland High School in the facility 19 years earlier.
Lakeland city commissioners today agreed to a one-year extension of the Lakeland Magic’s contract to use the RP Funding Center. The city and team had begun negotiating a five-year deal “but the naming rights for the Center are currently under negotiation, precluding a longer-term contract at the present time,” according to a memo from City Attorney Palmer Davis.
The city has not disclosed who is in the negotiations for naming rights, but RP Funding Center Director Tony Camarillo said several entities are in the running and he hopes to conclude negotiations “as soon as possible.”
Is RP Funding in the running for naming rights? “To our knowledge the Magic is still talking to RP Funding,” Camarillo said.
The contract approved today extends most of the provisions of the Lakeland Magic’s 2017 contract but includes several changes:
- The fee that the Magic pays to use the facility for games rises from $8,442 per game to $9,000 per game.
- The Magic are no longer exclusive sales agents for naming, advertising and signage at the facility.
- The revenue split between the Magic and the city “derived from advertising, naming and signage relating to center assets” is now 50-50. Previously the split was 70% for the Magic and 30% for the city.
- The city retains the right to negotiate with third parties for naming rights “and to reject any naming rights deal that does not provide the City with the greater of $250,000 per year or 50% of naming rights revenue.”
- The city will pay the Magic $3 per parking ticket on vehicles coming to games. That rate is consistent with other sports teams such as the Florida Tropics that play at the facility, city officials say. Until now, the city has paid $2 per vehicle for all games with attendance of 2,500 or more.
The naming-rights negotiations come at a time of transition for the RP Funding Center. The center’s managers have managed to reduce the city’s subsidy in recent years. The subsidy went from $4.8 million in fiscal 2021 to around $3 million this year.
But at a city budget planning session in February, Mayor Bill Mutz insisted the subsidy for next fiscal year be reduced from a projected $2.8 million to $1.5 million. Among his suggestions to achieve that was through getting better deals in negotiations with the Lakeland Magic and Florida Tropics.
The city issued a request for proposal in June seeking an outside company to manage the RP Funding Center. The request went to 372 companies, but the city said it received no valid responses.
At a budget session last month, City Manager Shawn Sherrouse announced a shift in strategy: The RP Funding would focus on outside rentals rather than producing its own shows, as it does for its Broadway Series and Classic Albums Live.
“We will become more of a rental facility,” Sherrouse said at the time. “We will look for other promoters who rent the facility who take on risk on return and profits they generate.”
The management team at RP Funding Center says the city’s subsidy is more than made up for by the economic impact of tourism generated by the center’s events and entertainment for local residents.