ST. PETERSBURG – It was a perfect day for showing off the emerging Pier District. Temperatures were moderate, skies blue and almost cloudless. From five stories up, views of Tampa Bay and the city’s skyline appeared endless.
The Pier’s tree-lined coastal thicket pathway was in evidence, as was the pavilion. There was the family park with a patch of decorative grasses and the child-enticing tilted lawn with sea grape trees and a peep hole into waters below.
It’s some of what Hill Carrow, the CEO of Sports & Properties of North Carolina, is working with in his quest to woo companies into acquiring naming rights at the 26-acre Pier District. They are available for annual payments of $50,000 to $1 million for 10-year terms.
“We have some flexibility,” said Alan DeLisle, the city’s development administrator. “In general, we are looking at annual payments for a fixed period of time, or in some cases, people are interested in paying everything up-front.”
Carrow, whose company was hired last year to solicit naming rights for the Pier, said he has had interest from two prominent companies following tours of the project. "I think if we are able to get the first couple across the line, that will add a lot of momentum to the area and to the initiative of naming rights recruitment and sales,” he said.
Now people want to know when it will open.
“While no dates have been set, it is anticipated that there will be a series of events from spring, leading up to the Fourth of July,” said Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination. “That is a very fluid situation right now.”
Carrow said the tours are important for his company’s effort. "Until somebody can actually experience what this new structure is going to be and the impact that it’s going to make, it is really hard to make a fairly significant investment for the long term,” he said.
The city views naming rights as a way to bring in revenue and decrease the annual taxpayer subsidy to operate the district. The new Pier’s annual operating costs will be an estimated $3.2 million, with a taxpayer subsidy of about $1.9 million. Two years ago, DeLisle told City Council members that St. Petersburg could expect to earn about $100,000 annually in naming rights.
We wanted to be very conservative," DeLisle said this week. “We have done a full valuation of what we’re offering out at the Pier and the values of different naming rights opportunities and the potential for that revenue is much higher than that.
The Pier District, whose final cost with ancillary projects is expected be about $92 million, will “draw people from all over the region, all over the country, all over the world,” DeLisle said.
Areas being offered for naming rights include the event lawn in front of the Pier head building and whose foundation includes blocks of Geofoam layered with soil and topped with grass. The marketplace, shaded by solar panels and lined with podacarpus trees and cabbage and Bismarck palms, is also up for grabs. The family park, which will include a soaring net sculpture by international artist Janet Echelman, is another element that’s available. Columns for the sculpture arrived from Alabama on Tuesday.
The coastal thicket, featuring pathways over the bay and currently lined with palms, is also available for naming rights, along with the pavilion area, a splash pad, the tilted lawn and a $1 million playground.
Sports & Properties’s work has included procuring naming rights for BB&T Field at Wake Forest University and the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, N.C. The Pier “is fairly unique in this regard,” Carrow said, going on to describe it as “the next big thing” in the Tampa Bay area.
“Everybody who has been able to go out and take a tour of the Pier, they are super impressed with what’s going on and the level of detail," Carrow said. "And they are very excited about what the end product is going to be.”