ROCKFORD — Sportscore Downtown has a new $1.9 million name: UW Health Sports Factory.
UW Health, which merged last year with Rockford’s SwedishAmerican Health System, was the winner in a naming rights derby put together by The Superlative Group. The Rockford Park District hired the Cleveland company to sell naming rights.
The $24.4 million center, part of a regional push to increase sports tourism, is expected to draw a half-million people a year for basketball, volleyball, wrestling and pickleball tournaments, as well as trade shows, meetings and local users. Construction is expected to be complete in May.
“This investment reflects our commitment to advancing downtown and continuing a proud and long-standing history of community partnerships,” said Dr. Bill Gorski, president and CEO of SwedishAmerican.
UW Health will pay a base of $175,000 a year for 10 years to the district, but the price will rise based on the Consumer Price Index.
“That puts us in a position of not having to use taxpayer money,” said Tim Dimke, the district’s executive director, today after an announcement on the naming rights deal.
Adam Stivers, a Rockford attorney, said Rockford missed out on a branding opportunity. “Letting a downtown Rockford sports facility be called UW Health Sports Factory is beyond ridiculous,” Stivers said in a tweet. And, “I don’t think calling it UW Health Rockford Sports Factory would have been too difficult to negotiate.”
So far, branding hasn’t been an issue attracting tournaments. Dimke said the district has already beat its goal of 20 tournaments during the UW Health Sports Factory’s first year. The new goal is 30 tournaments, he said.
The indoor sports facility, which is being built in a former factory, plays on the city’s manufacturing heritage. The UW Health Sports Factory’s tag line will be, “Where athletes are built.”
The center is in a place where a city is being rebuilt. Millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements downtown and in aging transportation corridors leading to it will mean an avenue for thousands of sports tourists, which the city hopes will stimulate the building of hotels, opening of restaurants and other services downtown.
“It’s about a city becoming healthy, a region becoming healthy,” Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said, adding that the facility will be a catalyst for an estimated 1,000 downtown jobs in coming years.
The $24.4 million facility, which City Engineer Matt Vitner said is $1 million under budget, is expected to draw thousands of sports teams and their fans downtown for tournaments. During off-times, the facility will be used by residents, including UW Health employees.