As Footprint Grows, Simmons Bank Puts Name on NLR Arena

by Lance Turner  on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 11:26 am   2 min read

Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, soon to carry a new name. (Dustin Nevill)

Verizon Arena in North Little Rock announced Friday that Simmons Bank of Pine Bluff has acquired naming rights to the 18,000-seat multi-purpose civic center.

The bank, owned by publicly traded Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff, inked a 15-year deal worth $10.5 million. The arena will take on the new name next year.

"This is an exciting opportunity for Simmons Bank, and we are proud to be associated with an organization that does so much for our economy, while providing some of the best entertainment in the region," George Makris, chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corp., said in a news release. "Sponsorships are an increasingly important component of our marketing strategy, and naming rights opportunities have only grown in value. It's a wonderful channel to engage consumers."

The arena opened in 1999 and has hosted hundreds of musical acts, sporting events and other productions. Artists including Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, The Eagles, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, George Strait, Garth Brooks and Stevie Wonder have made tour stops there. The Arkansas Razorbacks men's basketball team will play a game there on Dec. 15.

Arena officials signaled last month that they were seeking a new naming rights sponsor.

The move comes as Simmons Bank raises its brand visibility in the capital city. The company, which still has naming rights to the state's tallest building in Little Rock, is moving into the former Acxiom Corp. building, which sits along Interstate 30, across the Arkansas River from Verizon Arena.

Simmons is among a handful of banks in Arkansas that have been expanding beyond the state's borders. Between June 30, 2017, and June 30 of this year, Simmons nearly doubled in asset size, from $8.57 billion to $16.14 billion, with 207 offices across a seven-state footprint. That included acquiring First South Bank of Jackson, Tennessee, in September 2017; Southwest Bank of Fort Worth, Texas, in February; and Bank SNB of Stillwater, Oklahoma, in May.

Other quick-growing banks including Home BancShares Inc. of Conway and Bank OZK of Little Rock, which recently renewed naming rights to Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs.

Alltel Corp. of Little Rock was the first to having naming rights to the North Little Rock arena. Those rights moved to Verizon when the telecommunications giant purchased Alltel in 2008.

Former Alltel CEO Scott Ford thought highly of the company's investment in the sponsorship. In a 2008 speech to the Rotary Club of Little Rock, Ford touted the effectiveness of Alltel's sponsorship of a Nascar team. He said the only better investment, on a cost-per-eyeball basis, was Alltel Arena.

Verizon Arena said more than 400,000 people come through its doors each year. It averages in the top 35 in ticket sales nationally and the top 70 worldwide for arenas, according to Pollstar Magazine. In 2016, the arena set a new revenue record: $7.8 million.



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