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Merchants Insurance to sponsor Metro Rail's Seneca Street station

When Merchants Insurance Group began searching for new marketing opportunities, they looked no further than the Metro Rail stop right outside their downtown headquarters.

The century-old company that has occupied its Main and Seneca streets building since the mid-1960s has become the latest firm to purchase naming rights for a Metro Rail station from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. It joins Seneca Gaming and Casino, which last year agreed to sponsor the Erie Canal Harbor Station that it will rename Buffalo Creek Casino@Canalside; and Evans Bank, which signed up in February for its new Evans Bank@Lafayette Square Station.

The two new northbound and southbound stations at Main and Seneca will now be called Merchants Insurance Station@Seneca.

“It’s right outside our front door, so it seemed like a natural fit,” said Merchants President and CEO Robert M. Zak. “We’re really excited about what’s going on at this end of Main Street and think public transportation is going to take on even more importance.”

He said the company considers Metro Rail an important asset for its 230 downtown employees as well as for customers and visitors.

The NFTA and Merchants will now sign an initial, five-year agreement for about $161,000 with an option to renew for another five years.

“We’re happy to partner with Merchants to provide this new and improved station,” NFTA Executive Director Kimberley A. Minkel said at Thursday’s meeting of authority commissioners.

Both Metro Rail structures will now be spruced up with new paint schemes and signs featuring the Merchants brand. NFTA officials say all three newly sponsored stations should receive their signs and upgrades later this year.

The NFTA began exploring the naming rights idea in 2016 by hiring Superlative Group consultants to recruit area companies. The idea is similar to much larger deals resulting in the Buffalo Bills’ New Era Field, the Buffalo Sabres’ KeyBank Center and the Buffalo Bisons’ Sahlen Field.

Minkel has previously indicated that naming rights will provide a new stream of revenue for rehabilitation and improvements.

“Our stations are now over 30 years old and looking a little tired and worn,” she said in 2016. “This is a way to generate revenue to be put back specifically into those assets, improving the customer experience and the image, and helping us repair and maintain them.”

Minkel said the volume of passengers passing through stations every day creates a valuable asset for advertisers.

Metro buses and trains have featured interior and exterior advertising in various forms for years. Lamar Advertising in past years has paid the NFTA almost $1 million for ads in bus shelters, on the sides and inside of buses and trains as well as in rail stations.

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