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Amherst seeks bids on naming ice arena

The Amherst Pepsi Center may not be the Amherst Pepsi Center much longer. How about Tim Hortons Center or Northtown Auto Arena?

The naming and beverage pouring rights to the high-profile Amherst ice hockey facility are up for grabs at the end of the year. The Town of Amherst sent out bid requests over the last week, and interest is keen, said Purchasing Director Lawrence Graner.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Buffalo is particularly interested in the pouring rights after company representatives complained bitterly in 1998 that they were left out of bidding contention.

"On a weekly basis, they've called me and said, 'Where are you in the process?' " Graner said.

The town has posted request-for-proposals ads and sent out bid invitation letters to 70 or so of the area's largest companies.

Graner also sent out bid packages to five companies that directly expressed an interest in bidding for either the recreational facility's naming or pouring rights early on. Those companies include Coca-Cola Bottling, Tim Hortons, Pepsi Bottling Group, Northtown Automotive Cos. and Showcase Sports Marketing.

Tim Hortons had expressed some interest in having a presence in the center years ago but never got the green light.

Meanwhile, Pepsi representatives said back in March that they were interested in retaining the naming and pouring rights and have been sent a bid package, Graner said.

Pepsi has had its name on the heavily used ice rink complex for 11 years, after sealing an agreement for both naming and exclusive pouring rights at the facility for $550,000 over the contract period.

At the time, the agreement was considered far more lucrative than town officials had expected. Since then, however, the Pepsi Center has built a strong reputation as a host for big regional and national hockey tournaments and as the practice home for the Buffalo Sabres.

Since 2003, Amherst Pepsi Center administrators have reported an economic impact of more than $3 million a year, with an exceptional $6 million impact in 2008 and $4 million on the books for 2009.

For the upcoming deal, unlike the original, the town is separating the naming and pouring rights -- the right to exclusively sell only Pepsi or Coca-Cola beverages in the building -- in its request for proposals.

"It's an opportunity for the town to pick up some money," said Council Member Shelly Schratz, liaison to the Recreation Commission.

Interested bidders will be invited to a meeting Thursday in the Pepsi Center, where they will receive more information about the bid process.

If all goes as planned, Graner said, the town hopes to have a signed contract by Dec. 1 and possibly a new name on the building by Jan. 1.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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