Power Balance Pavilion may be rebranded as Sleep Train

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 - 8:09 am

Power Balance Pavilion could get renamed yet again – and Sleep Train is one of the candidates.

Sleep Train Mattress Centers said Tuesday it's negotiating with the Sacramento Kings for naming rights to the team's arena. The Rocklin-based retailer is one of several companies talking to the Kings about naming rights.

Kings co-owner Joe Maloof confirmed the team is in negotiations for a replacement for Power Balance. He said the Kings' marketing staff is handling the talks and he had no information about which companies are in the running. The team declined to comment further.

The Kings began looking for a new naming-rights partner after their year-old deal with Power Balance was cut short abruptly. The sports-wristband company left the team high and dry after filing for bankruptcy protection last fall. Power Balance paid the Kings just $700,000 before cutting off payments, according to court records.

Although the Power Balance deal turned into a debacle for the team, the Kings face significant hurdles in finding a replacement – an aging arena, a small market and a sluggish economy.

There's also lingering controversy over the Maloofs abandoning the city's deal for a downtown arena last spring, and the resulting uncertainty about the team's long-term future. The Maloofs insist they're committed to Sacramento.

In that light, a highly regarded local company could earn considerable good will by riding to the rescue and grabbing the naming rights, said E.J. Narcise of Team Services LLC, a sports-marketing firm in Maryland.

"There's a 'good guy' play at work," Narcise said.

Founded in 1985, Sleep Train operates more than 250 stores on the West Coast. It is already a Kings sponsor. It holds the naming rights for the Sleep Train Amphitheatre near Marysville and a similar venue in Concord.

The Marysville facility has struggled, but Dale Carlsen, founder and chief executive of the retail chain, said naming rights are still a good form of promotion.

The arena offers "opportunities that are out there beyond the Kings," he said. "The circuses, the ice shows, the concerts."

He added that it's also a form of public service. "It's important for businesses to support entertainment in the community," he said.

Maloof said he's convinced the Kings can snare a good naming-rights contract.

"We'll get a great deal, I'm sure, an outstanding deal," he said.

Despite a string of losing seasons, the franchise is "on the way up," he added. "We're getting a lot of positive interest" in the naming rights.

Whoever replaces Power Balance, it will be the second name change at the Kings' arena in a little over a year.

The building was known as Arco Arena for 25 years, until Power Balance signed a five-year contract starting in March 2011.

The deal figured to be more lucrative than the Arco contract, which paid a reported $750,000 a year.

Power Balance was scheduled to pay the team $975,000 in the first year and ramp up to $2.35 million in year five, according to bankruptcy court records.

Then Power Balance began imploding. Last fall it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, beaten down by slumping sales and a host of consumer lawsuits about the once-trendy wristbands' supposed health benefits. Some of the lawsuits had already been filed when the Kings signed on with Power Balance.

The company was sold to a Chinese firm that severed the contract with the Kings. The team was still owed $8.3 million, out of $9 million.

Narcise said it's possible the Kings could get a new deal comparable in price to the Power Balance contract.

"For an existing NBA building, that is not out of the stratosphere," the marketing consultant said.

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Read more articles by Dale Kasler

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