More than two months after the deal was announced, Utah State University and Maverik Inc. finally released the 22-year $6.3 million naming rights agreement for the Aggies’ football stadium Tuesday.
The contract release comes after The Herald Journal had asked USU and Maverik for the documents through the Government Records Access and Management Act. The two entities denied the GRAMA request, citing business confidentiality, and The Herald Journal appealed to the State Records Committee. On June 11, the committee ruled 6-1 in The Herald Journal’s favor.
USU had been given 30 days to decide whether to comply with the order or appeal the committee’s decision to district court. USU’s decision to comply on Tuesday came immediately following the release of the official written order the committee sent to both The Herald Journal and the university.
Maverik officials confirmed that they had provided copies of the contract to news organizations in the Salt Lake City area prior to the USU announcement, which is how The Herald Journal learned of the document’s release.
USU spokesman Eric Warren told the newspaper on Tuesday that although the university “strongly believes” it has the ability to honor Maverik’s claim under the provisions of GRAMA, there was too much public interest in the contract not to release it.
“There was a lot of speculation based on the agreement, speculation given without the benefit of reading the contract, so in concert with Maverik, we thought it was appropriate to release the contract at this time,” Warren said, adding that rumors of scholarships for Maverik employees or their families and a gas station/convenience store on campus are not true. “Now the public has the opportunity to read it and recognize that it’s pretty generic. There’s no smoking gun.”
Aaron Simpson, vice president for marketing with Maverik Inc., echoed that sentiment, saying the company wanted to maintain confidentiality, but talk over the contract was “becoming a distraction.”
“We talked to USU about it, and rather than appeal the decision (of the records committee), we decided to get it out in the open and move on and start talking about the great things going on at the football stadium,” Simpson said.
Simpson explained that soon after USU President Stan Albrecht and former vice president and athletics director Scott Barnes approached Maverik about the possibility of a naming rights partnership, the company requested confidentiality “up front.”
Indeed, the contract released Tuesday states that it is to be confidential because it includes “financial dealings and marketing strategies of Maverik.”
“We’ve always had a history of keeping all of our agreements with our partners private,” Simpson said. “We discussed risk, but they (USU) were willing to honor our request.”
USU officials have said the Maverik-USU agreement served as “a catalyst” for the USU football stadium renovations already underway. However, the $6.3 million will hardly cover the roughly $30 million in total costs of the project. According to Warren, in addition to the Maverik agreement, a portion will be financed and paid back over time by the revenue generated from premium seating and the other portion from donations. Current construction is being funded by private donations given to USU through supporters and by financing.
“This agreement ... ensures a promising future for Aggie football,” Warren said. “Our relationship with Maverik is a win-win for USU, our students, athletes and fans. We look forward to many Aggie wins in Maverik Stadium.”
Simpson added, “We like to partner with people who are all about adventure and excitement and we felt like football stadiums all fit into our brand. We think it’s a great way to connect with students, alumni and fans at USU, so we’re excited about it.”
Simpson also said the renovations or additions of new Maverik convenience stores in Cache Valley isn’t necessarily related to the stadium naming rights partnership.
“I will say the stadium deal has left us thinking more about Cache Valley and how do we grow up there,” Simpson said. “Part of it is coincidence and part of it is we’re trying to have a bigger presence up there.”
Terms of the deal
Beginning Jan. 1, Maverik will make quarterly payments to USU of $87,500, adding up to $6.3 million over the course of 18 years.
According to the contract, the agreement will last until Dec. 31, 2037, but could go further if the stadium renovation is delayed. Maverik is entitled to a “one-time option” to terminate the agreement in 2026. If the notice of termination is made prior to Dec. 31, any payments made stays with USU.
If those talks don’t happen, USU and Maverik will work to extend the agreement in 2023.
In the event that Maverik goes into default or breeches the terms of the contract, USU could terminate the agreement.
Likewise, if USU breeches the terms of the contract or the stadium expansion is not “substantially completed before the first home game of USU’s 2018 football season,” Maverik could terminate the deal.
Maverik will be granted “hospitality” benefits as part of the $6.3 million deal. This includes 10 seats in one of the executive suites, four parking passes and a “voucher ticket program” for Aggie tickets to be sold at Maverik stores. Maverik will also be able to use the clubroom for meetings after paying a “minimum facility fee.”
The contract gives Maverik exclusivity in many areas of the stadium.
Maverik Stadium signs will be provided on the west side of the new stadium press box, on the south side of the Jim and Carol Laub Athletics-Academics Complex facing Merlin Olsen Field and on the south scoreboard.
While the stadium’s name has changed, the contract states that USU “shall not accept a sponsorship or naming rights agreement” for the stadium’s football field, named Merlin Olsen Field for the beloved USU Aggie football and NFL star.
Both USU and Maverik officials say they plan to honor the late USU football coach Dick Romney as part of the new Maverik Stadium. For decades, the stadium had been called Romney Stadium to recognize his long service to USU.
USU will also “use reasonable efforts” to obtain approval from organizations like the Utah Department of Transportation to put up signage in the Logan area with the name “Maverik Stadium,” according to the contract.
Maverik will be designated as the “official gas station and convenience store of Utah State University Football,” the contract states; no other competitors will fill this role.
There will also be variety of changes to the football stadium’s offerings to “enhance game-day experience,” Simpson said.
Maverik will theme one concession stand within the stadium as a “Bonfire Grill,” where Maverik food products will be sold by USU’s concessionaire.
In addition, a Maverik/USU-themed drink cup will be used at football game concessions.
There are a few other interesting tid-bits in the contract, among them:
• USU will make efforts to ensure that members of the news media refer to the stadium as “Maverik Stadium.”
• USU can’t rename the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, the Aggie’s basketball venue, for a Maverik competitor.
• Significant football replays on the big screen will be deemed a “Maverik Adventure Play,” referring to the company’s slogan “Adventure’s First Stop.”