Raising Cane’s to buy naming rights to Baton Rouge River Center, sources say

Mayor Kip Holden’s administration has secured a deal with Raising Cane’s for the chicken finger chain to buy the naming rights to the Baton Rouge River Center for 10 years, Daily Report has learned.

Though the mayor declines to identify Cane’s as the city’s partner in the deal, he confirms the city has an agreement in place. Multiple sources familiar with the deal confirm Cane’s is that corporate partner.

Cane’s founder and CEO Todd Graves declines to comment.

While Holden won’t divulge details of the deal, speaking generally he says selling the naming rights to the facility will bring countless benefits to the city.

“Now, like many other cities, we’ll have a quality name—branding—associated with the River Center,” he says. “This will help us with promotions and make the River Center a more attractive venue.”

What’s more, Holden says the money from the sale will be used, at least in part, to reinvest in the roughly 40-year-old facility.

“We’ll do things like repairs, refurbishing, different things that need touching up,” he says. “So we won’t have to go into the city general fund.”

According to sources familiar with the deal, Cane’s will pay $3 million for the naming rights, which comes to $300,000 per year. It is not clear whether the rights will extend to the River Center’s arena, theater, and exhibition hall or just the arena. Holden says that detail is still being finalized.

Either way, buying naming rights is a great deal for a company like Cane’s, says strategist Robert Munson, who was not familiar with the deal but whose consulting firm has handled many naming rights deals for sports venues.

“There’s a huge value for the corporate partner in the naming rights,” Munson says. “Any time that venue is mentioned in the media and especially on social media, that corporate partner is mentioned and that is huge.”

For Cane’s, associating with a venue like the multipurpose River Center also makes a lot of sense.

“You can have the circus one day, a business expo the next and the Harlem Globetrotters the day after that in the River Center,” Munson says. “If in fact it is Raising Cane’s, that would make a lot of sense because they have a large swath of demographics they are interested in appealing to.”

From the city’s perspective, the deal makes sense because of the revenue it brings in, which likely will go to much more than just upkeep of the exhibition hall, Munson says. In many cities, naming rights revenues are used to pay down municipal debt, he says.

Before the deal becomes official here, the Metro Council must sign off on it. Late Wednesday, the mayor’s office placed an item on the council agenda to bring up the measure for public discussion at the council’s Oct. 26 meeting.

—Stephanie Riegel

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