DPAC naming rights: A gift that keeps on giving | Durham County | Indy Week
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DPAC naming rights: A gift that keeps on giving 

Click for larger image • The new 2,800-seat, $46.8 million downtown Durham Performing Arts Center

Photo by D.L. Anderson

Click for larger image • The new 2,800-seat, $46.8 million downtown Durham Performing Arts Center

Well, the opportunity for half-price entry to a "Grand Opening Gala" has come and gone. (Turns out, they held one for free.) But plenty of reasons remain to add your name or a loved one's to a seat, door or concession stand at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For the modest sum of $8,000, for example, you can have your moniker imprinted on a brushed-steel plate proudly displayed on the housekeeping closet. No, you won't be paying for 841 man-hours of mopping, scrubbing and (ridiculously large) window cleaning. (Though, if operators PFM/ Nederlander exempt maintenance staff from Durham's livable wage ordinance, that number could increase.) And your contribution won't necessarily "enhance the DPAC with artwork and other finishing touches that will ensure a WOW factor for the new venue," as the DPAC Web site insists. Until the city can make its payments, and the theater begins to turn a profit, there will be no more finishing touches at the value-engineered theater, which added carpeting and a second elevator—but stopped short of a complete sound system—at the eleventh hour.

That was in part due to the sluggish sale of major naming rights, which proved not as hot an item as city officials hoped. As of the Nov. 30 opening, naming rights had generated only 12 percent of the $22.4 million in revenue that was projected. So far, donors have laid claim to the stage, atrium, lobby, ticket manager's office, box office and orchestra concession stand, at a grand total of $2.6 million, but many opportunities remain.

In exchange for sponsoring a security office, break room or conference room nameplate ($5,000, $15,000 and $22,000, respectively), the city will use your money to pay down its debt on the $46.8 million building—which, as it turns out, is also looking for a name. (That's sort of the point of all this.)

Ten percent of every naming rights pledge will be split evenly among the Carolina Theatre, the Durham Arts Council and St. Joseph's Historic Foundation, a provision intended to prevent DPAC from cornering the market on local arts philanthropy. Sports & Properties Inc., the firm in charge of soliciting naming rights, gets a 20 percent commission—even if they didn't lift a finger to recruit you.

Your generous gift, to the City of Durham's DPAC Capital Campaign, may be tax-deductible, and it also may last well into your old age. Nameplate recognition is guaranteed until at least 2033-34, the year Durham is scheduled to make its final annual debt payment of $2.5 million on the theater.

"It's generally through somebody's lifetime at this point, unless they're extremely young," Sports & Properties CEO Hill Carrow says. "Their name would stay in that place and would change only if the city decides to resell everything later."

That's right: Diamonds may be forever, but naming rights to the grand tier concessions stand No. 2 is for 26 years—at a mere $6,000.

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