The RP Funding Center will keep its current name for at least five years, under an agreement that is expected to be approved by city commissioners on Tuesday. The new contract means $1.25 million in additional revenue to the city, which is $500,000 more than the city got under the previous five-year naming-rights agreement.

What: Commissioners will vote Tuesday on a proposed agreement with Mortgage Lenders Investment Trading Corp., doing business as RP Funding, granting naming rights to the city’s large convention/entertainment complex for $250,000 a year for the next five years.

UPDATE: Commissioners approved the naming rights agreement unanimously on Monday, Jan. 17, 2023.

How does this differ from the previous naming-rights agreement? This time the city is dealing directly with RP Funding. The previous agreement was with the Lakeland Magic and its parent organization, the Orlando Magic, and provided for revenue sharing with the city.

How does the money differ? The city got approximately $150,000 a year, under the previous naming rights agreement, according to City Attorney Palmer Davis.

How did this come about? When the city’s previous agreement with the Magic to use the RP Funding Center expired last year, it was extended for one year. The renewal did not include naming rights, and the city has since then negotiated naming rights with “different entities,” Davis said.

What happens at the end of the five-year agreement? The RP Funding Center can negotiate for an additional five years. New fees would be part of the deliberations, Davis said.

What if the city wants to get out of the deal before five years is up? It can terminate with 120 days written notice. It can also end the deal “immediately in the event RP Funding engages in any conduct which brings RP Funding into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule or which reflects unfavorably on the reputation of the City,” under the terms of the contract.

Does the agreement include naming rights for any other portions of the facility, such as the Youkey Theatre or Jenkins Arena? No. City Manager Shawn Sherrouse said at today’s commission agenda study meeting that the city is negotiating the name to some portion of the facility. He did not name which building or room or who is involved.

Are there currently naming rights agreements for individual buildings or rooms at the RP Funding Center? No. Current names are honorary: Jenkins Arena for Publix founder George Jenkins, Youkey Theatre for former City Manager Bob Youkey, and Sikes Hall for Florida Tile founder Jimmie Sikes. Other portions of the center that could be subject to naming rights are the Lake Hollingsworth Ballroom, Exhibit Hall, the Lake Parker and Lake Morton Rooms and the box office.

Would adding naming rights to portions of the RP Funding Center clutter the marquis? That was a concern of Commissioner Mike Musick. Sherrouse responded that the current negotiations do not include placing additional names on the center’s marquis.

Does it cause confusion when major facilities change their names? Commissioner Sam Simmons said he was puzzled five years ago when The Lakeland Center became the RP Funding Center. Center director Tony Camarillo said that when people tell him they remember when it was the Lakeland Center, he tells them, “Come to the Lakeland Center. It’s the RP Funding Center now, but keep coming.” Sherrouse added that the name change was similar to Raymond James Stadium and Amalie Arena in Tampa and Amway Center in Orlando, all or which had other names previously.

Are naming rights agreements part of the efforts to reduce the city’s subsidy to keep the entertainment and convention complex running? Yes. It’s one of several strategies that have reduced the subsidy from $4.8 million in fiscal 2021 to a projected $2 million in 2027. Other elements include raising event rates and changing its focus more toward renting to outside promoters than promoting its own events such as the Broadway series and Classic Albums Live.

Who is the RP in RP Funding? Robert Palmer, who founded the Orlando company in 2008. He’s a Lakeland native who graduated from Lakeland High School in the building that now bears his company’s name in 1998. When the center was renamed in 2017, RP Funding had an office on Main Street in downtown Lakeland; it has since closed.

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Barry Friedman

Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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