PORTLAND, Ore. -- Over the last 14 months, the Trail Blazers have added a new president, a new general manager, a new coach, a new point guard and, now, a new name for their home arena.
Blazers president Chris McGowan announced Tuesday that the building formerly known as the Rose Garden has been renamed the Moda Center, effectively immediately. The name change is the result of the Blazers' new partnership with Moda Health, a medical insurance company headquartered in Portland that covers patients in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.
"These are the types of large-scale partnerships that are going to take our organization to the next level," McGowan said in a statement. "This agreement enables us to reinvest in the company and the team at levels that impact every aspect of the fan experience, including the facilities, amenities, events and even the product on the court."
McGowan told SI.com that the 10-year naming-rights agreement will be worth "in the ballpark" of $4 million per year to the Blazers, who have not had an arena corporate sponsor since the building opened as the Rose Garden in 1995. That price tag is significantly larger than multiple naming-rights deals in mid-sized NBA markets, according to figures reported by The Oregonian in January.
The Moda Center name change was immediately met with criticism on social media sites and message boards. Portland is often called the "City of Roses" and, in addition to that local tie-in, a number of fans in the left-leaning city liked that the Rose Garden was one of the few NBA buildings without a corporate sponsor. Others were confused by the name, as Moda Health only recently rebranded after being known as Oregon Dental Services (ODS).
"We just felt Moda Center was iconic, it's short, it's easy to remember, it rolls off the tongue really well," McGowan told SI.com, when asked about the initial backlash. "I think once people realize what these types of deals do for our organization in terms of taking us to another level, they'll adapt [to] it."
Dr. William Johnson, president of Moda Health, said the company's new name, and the building's new name, are meant to connote active living.
"Moda is derived from the Latin term 'modus,' which means 'the way,'" Johnson explained. "The way to do more, the way to do better, the way to better health. That's where Moda derives from and we feel it's a direct fit [with the Blazers]."
Moda Health emerged as the Blazers' naming-rights partner after a lengthy search process that involved contact with 317 companies. McGowan brought on Premier Partnerships, a naming-rights advisory firm, to sift through potential sponsors that ranged from electronics and technology firms, to financial services companies, to renewable energy companies.
Although the Blazers have undertaken three separate sets of layoffs in less than a year since McGowan took over as president, the new revenue stream from this agreement will not be used to hire personnel. Rather, McGowan will look to make "capital improvements" to the Moda Center, the Blazers' practice facility and the area directly surrounding the Moda Center known as the Rose Quarter. Those upgrades could include improved wireless network access, a redesigned fountain near the building's main entrance, new exterior lighting and more locally focused food and beverage options in the arena. Longer-term plans include upgrades to the arena's luxury suites and club levels.
The Blazers ranked No. 4 in home attendance despite winning just 33 games and missing the playoffs last year, averaging 19,829 fans per game, with a total capacity of 20,636. Portland will play host to the Spurs in its home opener Nov. 2.