Indiana Farmers insurance company buys naming rights for renovated state fairgrounds arena

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INDIANAPOLIS — The renaming of the renovated Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum comes with a fat cat on the building's roof.

Officials announced Tuesday that the arena will be known as Indiana Farmers Coliseum after Carmel-based Indiana Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. signed a 10-year, $6 million naming rights contract. The deal includes installing a sign on the roof of comic-strip cat Garfield, which was created by Indiana cartoonist Jim Davis and is part of the company's marketing campaign.

Indiana Farmers CEO Kim Smith said the arena naming will help boost the profile of the company.

"When we looked at the coliseum, it's more than just a building. It's a Hoosier icon," she told The Indianapolis Star. "We write business exclusively for Indiana residents, so we share that common Hoosier heritage."

New signs featuring Garfield probably won't be installed until this spring, fairgrounds spokesman Andy Klotz said.

The 75-year-old arena was known as Pepsi Coliseum from 1991 until the soft-drink company's contract ended in 2012. The arena reopened in April after a $63 million renovation that took 18 months.

The Indy Fuel minor-league hockey team, which started playing at the arena this season, negotiated the contract with the insurance company and will get to keep the money under its lease.

Pepsi had paid $170,000 a year for the naming rights, meaning the new deal is more than triple that amount. CNO Financial Group pays $2 million a year for the naming rights to Bankers Life Fieldhouse — the downtown Indianapolis home of the NBA's Pacers.

Indy Fuel President Sean Hallett told the Indianapolis Business Journal he wasn't surprised at the size of the new contract.

"Lots of people don't realize how much traffic this facility will draw," Hallett said. "Around 1.4 million per year will come through this facility, and that made this deal appealing."

The coliseum renovation project included gutting the interior, building two-level seating and installing video scoreboard and new lighting and sound systems. The arena, which is also the new home for IUPUI's basketball teams, seats about 6,800 people for basketball games and up to 8,200 for concerts.

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