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Visitors to the Casper Events Center now buy tickets at the bright green SinclairTix box office, underneath the oil company’s towering dinosaur mascot.

Thirst can be quenched at the Pepsi concession counter. Branded wallpaper dubs it a “sip station” and “pop stop,” part of a five-year deal to promote Pepsi and its Rockstar energy drink.

Where sun-faded flags once hung from the rafters, JJM Group Hotels now promotes its local franchises: Candlewood Suites, La Quinta, Hampton Inn and Denny’s.

The first aid station is sponsored by Wyoming Medical Center.

“This is the way of the industry,” said General Manager Brad Murphy.

The Events Center’s new management has more than tripled the arena’s corporate sponsorship since the venue was privatized last fall, according to Murphy, part of a host of changes at central Wyoming’s largest venue.

City Council approved a contract with Spectra Venue Management in September to operate the Events Center for five years with an eye toward both attracting more prominent acts through Spectra’s national network and reducing the arena’s $1 million annual deficit.

The sponsorship has already helped achieve one of those goals. Murphy said the deals represent $285,000 in advertising revenue at the arena, 75 percent of which is new business.

“I think of Spectra’s presence across the country and their ability to get not just regional sponsorship but national sponsors,” Murphy said. “It’s a really good thing for our community as well because we are bringing a lot more events and we’re getting a lot more exposure of these sponsors.”

Ticket sales are also up 10 percent, almost halfway to Spectra’s target, and Murphy said his team has been able to attract big acts.

He cited Foo Fighters upcoming winter concert, which has the band taking advantage of another Spectra venue in Idaho.

“We’re really trying to bring not just big-name shows, but really diversified types of talent here,” Murphy said.

Elton John, Snoop Dogg and Eric Church have performed since Spectra took over, and rapper Lil Wayne was scheduled to perform before cancelling.

During a recent tour of the Events Center, Councilman Dallas Laird asked whether he could find a pair of rock tickets in the new box office.

“Are the Beach Boys tickets in here?” he asked. The group performs in Casper in July.

They weren’t. But it wasn’t all bad news for the councilman.

“We can get you Beach Boys tickets,” Murphy told him.

Savings help Casper

The tour was largely dedicated to convincing Council members that the arena needs new seats. Murphy made a presentation requesting $800,000 for wider seats with more legroom in March, and the tour two weeks ago had members sit in the relatively cramped seats, which lost several inches of room after padding was added a few years ago.

Council has been noncommittal — it’s currently planning to spend $4 million in reserves to cover expenses for the fiscal year starting in July — and Murphy didn’t make an ask during the tour, though he noted uncomfortable seats is the No. 1 complaint he hears from customers.

It was also a chance to show off the new sponsorship, which may reduce the city’s annual subsidy. Casper will continue to cover operating shortfalls of up to $994,000 per year, plus an annual $130,000 management fee.

Spectra receives 20 percent of any savings, meaning that if the operating loss is entirely eliminated — an unlikely scenario — the company would still be paid $328,000 in public funds each year.

Both parties have the option to extend the deal in five-year increments. The city retains ownership of the building itself.

The sponsorship also has practical benefits. Murphy said six Sinclair gas stations around Wyoming will soon start selling Events Center tickets. While the plans have yet to be finalized, the goal is to offer such sales in Rawlins, Rock Springs, Cheyenne, Laramie, Sheridan and Gillette.

“This is a huge partnership,” corporate sales manager Ryan Hauck told Council. He added that it could develop into a deal for arena naming rights.

The tour also highlighted quirks of the venue, which was built in 1982.

For example, the security team has had difficulty using metal detector wands on shoes and boots because rebar in the concrete floor causes interference.

“That’s where I keep my shank,” quipped Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay.

Murphy said the venue has renewed contracts for state high school sports finals through 2022 and with the College National Finals Rodeo, which wrapped up last week, through 2021.

But he emphasized the goal was to go beyond sports. Murphy said ultimately Spectra wants to increase the number of event days from 200 to 220 and boost ticket sales by 20 to 25 percent.

“We’re trying to diversify our entertainment as much as possible,” he said. “We’re not just a rodeo building.”

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State Politics Reporter

Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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