Ames Construction to get arts center naming rights

Terms of deal await

Naming rights — and the revenue that goes with them — have proved an elusive catch for the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, which the city opened in 2009.

But a deal is finally at hand, involving a storied local company with a rich philanthropic history.

The city and Burnsville-based Ames Construction Inc. hope to soon announce a formal agreement granting Ames the naming rights, the city announced Monday.

City Council members celebrated the news at their Tuesday work session, deflecting credit to Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. She personally cultivated the deal with principals of the family-owned company, colleagues said.

Council Member Mary Sherry credited the mayor’s “persistence and graciousness.”

“Very few companies could afford to do it, and they really did step up,” Council Member Bill Coughlin said. “What a wonderful name that will be attached to the BPAC.”

The tentative agreement calls for Ames’ name to grace the arts and event center, which includes a 1,014-seat main theater, a black box theater, meeting spaces and an art gallery.

City officials remain tight-lipped about what kind of money might be involved.
Terms of the deal will be solidified this fall, the city said.

An old marketing brochure from Friends of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center may or may not offer a clue. The nonprofit, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the center in cash, labor and equipment, was at one time peddling full naming rights for $1.5 million.

The Ames deal is yet another step toward better financial health for the center, which was predicted to post annual operating losses but has cut them in recent years.

Operating losses totaled $285,747 in 2012, compared with $304,853 in 2011, according to the city. And the city negotiated revenue-enhancement incentives in its new contract with VenuWorks, the center’s management company.

Ames officials have “seen that the Performing Arts Center has done well,” Kautz said.

Ames Construction, a heavy civil and industrial contractor, has Burnsville roots that date back more than 50 years. It has regional offices in several Western and Midwestern states.

The company’s vast portfolio of projects ranges from the airport in Denver, Colo., to the Crosstown/Interstate 35W interchange and the Highway 13/County Road 5 interchange in Burnsville.

Naming rights aside, the company has already “made very significant contributions to the construction of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center,” according to a December 2012 council proclamation designating an Ames Construction Week in Burnsville to honor the company’s 50th anniversary.

In addition to donating to the arts center, Ames donated the bronze sculpture on the north side of Burnsville Parkway that features a workman and an antique earth mover behind a workhorse.

Its many other philanthropic projects include the Ames Arena in Lakeville. And Kautz said the company’s contributions to the expansion of Fairview Ridges Hospital now underway “triggered” the project.

Company executives include founder and President Richard Ames and his brothers, Raymond (“Butch”) and Ron.

“They’re salt of the earth, and they’re wonderful people,” Council Member Dan Kealey said.

They have a “tremendous amount of respect and admiration for you,” he told the mayor.