A Richmond bank once again is putting its money down on college sports.
Union Bank & Trust said last week it has secured naming rights to the new $88 million basketball arena being built by James Madison University in Harrisonburg.
The 8,600-seat facility will be named The Union Bank & Trust Center, in exchange for the bank paying $2.5 million over 10 years.
It’s the second multimillion-dollar naming rights deal Union has struck with a Virginia university. Last year it announced a $3.5 million agreement to get its name on the Virginia Tech baseball complex, now known as English Field at Union Park, which is undergoing an $18 million upgrade.
Union said discussions with JMU began about a year ago when the school approached the bank.
CEO John Asbury, who took the helm when talks with JMU were already underway, said the deal is part of a shift in the bank’s marketing strategy as it becomes a larger player in the state.
“We’ve taken an overall look at our marketing strategy and tightened our focus on Virginia collegiate athletics as being a point of interest for us and something we want to lean into,” Asbury said.
He said Union likes schools that have a strong alumni base that stays in Virginia after college, as Union is the only Virginia-based bank with a statewide presence.
While Union is banking on plenty of exposure tied to JMU basketball’s use of the arena, the facility also will be used for conferences, graduation and other events, increasing exposure in that part of the state beyond sports crowds.
“We think it’s a lot of bang for our buck,” Asbury said.
Kat Costello, Union’s director of community engagement, said it has had a marketing relationship with JMU for about 20 years and with the school’s athletics department for about 10 years, but on a smaller scale.
The bank’s appetite for college sports extends elsewhere in the state. It has struck past deals for branding with UVA football and UVA basketball, as well as sponsorships with University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, the College of William & Mary and others.
JMU announced the Union deal last week, saying it’s the largest corporate naming agreement in the school’s history. It was handled by Learfield, a company used by many universities to handle sponsorships and media rights.
The new arena will replace the 35-year-old JMU Convocation Center, which has 6,400 seats.
S.B. Ballard Construction will build the new facility, with work to begin early next year and completion targeted for the 2020-2021 basketball season. Moseley Architects is designing the arena.
JMU first announced plans for the arena and began fundraising for it in April 2015.
The school says it has raised $12 million – the goal needed to move ahead with construction planning. It will continue to raise additional funds. Student fees will also be part of the financing, according to a report from the Virginian-Pilot.