Trustees' vote makes it official: Redbird Arena is now CEFCU Arena
After a 6-1 vote by trustees Friday supporting a naming rights deal, Illinois State University has renamed Redbird Arena to CEFCU Arena. The venue is home to ISU's basketball and volleyball teams, as well as other events, including annual Gamma Phi Circus performances.
The renaming is the byproduct of an ongoing effort to find additional funding for university athletics program; in a January interview with WGLT, athletics director Kyle Brennan said ISU was weighing its options for offering naming rights to businesses.
On Friday, Brennan told trustees the university partnered with a consulting firm to determine the market value of the naming rights; the agreement between ISU and the Peoria-based credit union is set to provide around $3.1 million to the university over 10 years.
"I think what this represents is progress for all of us," Brennan said. "Especially when I got to Illinois State, we were charged with trying to not only increase the revenue that we have, but to bring in new sources of revenue. For us to get this infusion and level of support for our student-athletes is exciting."
Brennan specified the money ISU receives each year from the deal will go toward student-athlete needs, including nutritional programming, training, equipment, mental health resources and academic support.
Public comment during Friday's meeting included nothing but support for the renaming and featured two student- athletes and retired women's basketball coach Melinda Fischer. Trustee Bob Navarro, however, said he'd heard from "several concerned alums" about the change. Navarro asked Brennan if ISU had considered keeping the word Redbird in the name, somehow, such as calling it, "CEFCU's Redbird Arena."
"If you look across the country, most deals, if not all, eliminate the original name and put in the new one," Brennan said. "When we (were) dealing with CEFCU and negotiating, that was their interest. When we talked about it, it made sense."
Brennan added that CEFCU agreed to allow print marketing and promotional materials to read, "CEFCU Arena, Home of the Redbirds."
Ultimately, Navarro voted against the renaming.
"I understand the feeling. I’m a Redbird, I get that, but we’re in a new era and this is still a way for us to enhance and get better as Redbirds,” Brennan told WGLT after the meeting.
The deal with CEFCU is likely not the only change in the campus' future; Brennan said the university is exploring naming rights deals for other venues, including Hancock Stadium.
In other action, the board of trustees:
- Approved a FY23 operating budget of $509 million, which is a 2% uptick from the previous year without COVID-era funding.
- Approved a resolution to put forth a $83.1 million appropriations request before the Illinois Higher Education Board for ISU's FY24 operating budget. President Terri Goss Kinzy said the 13.7% projected budget increase is due to employee compensation, among other needs.
- Approved the use of $15 million in housing reserve funding to repair and update elevators in Watterson Towers.
- Added new trustee Anthony Byrd and student trustee Aselimhe Ebikhumi to the board.