Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True North, MTS deal far richer than previous one

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Pierre Blouin would like Winnipeggers who haven't even been born yet to watch NHL hockey at the MTS Centre.

The president of MTS Allstream joined True North Sports & Entertainment executives Thursday morning to announce the expansion of their seven-year partnership.

Under the terms of the deal, the Winnipeg-based telecommunications company will retain the naming rights to the downtown arena for the next decade with an option to extend the deal to "well past 2030." MTS will also remain the exclusive provider of telecommunications services to the MTS Centre.

"It was a no-brainer. This is the best type of corporate sponsorship we've ever done," Blouin said. "We're thrilled to be expanding our relationship with True North and that our name will continue to be synonymous with hockey excellence. MTS is the home team, our roots are in Manitoba."

No financial details were released but it was widely acknowledged the deal is significantly richer than the $7-million one signed between the two companies in 2004.

"We knew we were embarking on something special (back then). It worked out much better than expected," Blouin said.

He said the value of the relationship has been proven over the past few weeks as the building has received seemingly endless exposure in national media. The corporate name will be even more prevalent when the next hockey season starts and the MTS Centre appears on Hockey Night In Canada and on sports highlights shows.

"Clearly, (the new deal) is worth more than the last one but there's more return (for us), too," he said.

Jim Ludlow, president of True North, said bringing MTS back on board helps provide sustainability and long-term viability to True North's business model. Just as True North showed its loyalty to Manitoba Moose season ticket holders by giving them an exclusive pre-sale window, it's doing the same with its corporate partners.

"You dance with the one who brung you," he said.

Ludlow said True North is currently in discussions with other significant corporate partners, including Coca-Cola, Labatt, Moosehead, Toyota and Corus.

Of course, the highest-profile issue facing True North is choosing the team name. Ludlow said the inner circle is weighing the competing interests of choosing the historical Jets brand or moving in a new direction.

"We have all those plates to spin but we think we can get the right answer for the community within a few short weeks," he said.

Blouin, a native of Montreal, said he'll be wearing the local team's jersey when the storied Montreal Canadiens make their first visit to the MTS Centre.

"Everywhere I go, people are talking about (the return of the NHL to Winnipeg). Everybody wants to know if we have tickets," he said.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2011 A5

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