By Kevin Collison
When what was then called the Sprint Center debuted in 2007, it had a roaring start with Sir Elton John and then a nine-day run by Garth Brooks kicking off its debut.
As the newly-renamed T-Mobile Center, the first sounds inside the big glass bowl at 13th and Grand hopefully will be basketballs bouncing in late November.
That’s because no concerts are other non-sporting entertainment events are expected at the downtown venue through at least the end of 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Brenda Tinnen, general manager of the facility.
“I’m slightly optimistic about collegiate events,” she said.
The now T-Mobile Center still anticipates holding the annual National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Classic tournament in late November, and a pair of marquee basketball matchups in December, KU vs Mizzou, Dec. 12, and Kansas State vs Nebraska, Dec. 19.
Until then, its crickets for T-Mobile, which is taking over the naming rights deal that was celebrated by former Sprint CEO Gary Forsee in 2004.
Sprint agreed to pay $1.7 million annually for 25 years, a figure that would rise to $2.5 million if the arena landed a major pro sports franchise. At the time, it was a critical private investment to help make the $276 million arena deal a reality.
The former Sprint Center, along with the Power & Light District across the street and the corporate headquarters of H&R Block, are considered the key big investments that launched the contemporary revival of downtown Kansas City in the 2000s.
Since then, the now T-Mobile Center has consistently ranked among the top arenas in the country when it comes to entertainment event attendance, according to Pollstar Magazine, a national trade publication.
T-Mobile’s naming rights will extend to 2032, according to a release announcing the renaming.
“I couldn’t be prouder to announce T-Mobile Center and show the Kansas City community that we’re deeply invested in the home of our second headquarters,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a statement.
“We’re proud to be with you, and when it’s safe to reopen, we’re bringing you some incredible UN-carrier experiences.”
Along with the name change, the firm operating and managing the city-owned arena also has evolved. Anschutz Entertainment Group, better known as AEG, merged last October with SMG, another global entertainment venue operator, to become ASM Global.
When the arena deal was being put together in 2004, AEG contributed $53.2 million to the project in return for a 35-year contract running the facility.
One thing hasn’t changed.
Tinnen, who has been GM of the arena since it opened its doors 13 years ago, will continue in that role as will Shani Tate-Ross, vice president of sales and marketing.
“Thank goodness we are still essential,” she quipped.
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