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Call it LECOM Harborcenter, after naming rights deal

If you're not familiar with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, or LECOM for short, the Erie, Pa.-based college hopes to change that.

LECOM has signed a 10-year agreement with Pegula Sports and Entertainment for the naming rights to what is now called LECOM Harborcenter, the hockey rinks and hotel complex in downtown Buffalo. The dollar value of the agreement was not disclosed.

The LECOM logo already was on the ice on a rink at the complex as of Tuesday. More signs will be installed inside and outside the facility, said Eric Nicastro, the college's acting institutional director of communications and marketing.

The idea of naming rights for local sports complexes is nothing new, from the KeyBank Center to New Era Field to Sahlen Field. But LECOM isn't as familiar locally as those other brands. The Harborcenter deal gives the college a chance to increase its visibility roughly 100 miles from its home base in Erie, Pa.

[When names change: Buildings around WNY

LECOM already has promotional tie-ins with the Sabres, including a T-shirt toss, a program recognizing students and a discounted ticket program. Those connections will continue. But the new deal puts the LECOM name on a prominent complex that includes hockey rinks, a Marriott hotel, restaurants and training facilities, right next door to the Sabres' home.

Harborcenter is a popular spot for hockey, from youth hockey all the way up to Sabres practices. "For us to be a partner with that, it puts our name in front of a large group of people in a very small, condensed space," Nicastro said.

LECOM says it has more than 4,100 students enrolled at its campuses in Erie, Pa., Greensburg, Pa., and Bradenton, Fla. Another campus, in Elmira, is scheduled to open next year. The college teaches future physicians, pharmacists and dentists and bills itself as one of the most affordable medical schools in the country, based on tuition.

"We've been here for over 25 years and we're trying to reach a larger audience," Nicastro said. The Sabres tie-ins have proven helpful with that awareness, he said.

"It's our mission to put LECOM in front of everybody," Nicastro said. "Anyone that thinks about going to medical school, we want them to think about LECOM."

Nicastro said the planned Elmira campus fits LECOM's mission of serving areas that need physicians, pharmacists and dentists the most. "Studies have shown that where students complete their medical education, including their postgraduate medical education, they stay in that area," he said.

Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula and Dr. John Ferretti, LECOM's president and CEO, on Sept. 23 are set to formally unveil Harborcenter's new name and announce a "major community initiative."

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