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AT&T Center seeking new naming rights partner

US telecommunications company AT&T is set to end its connection with the San Antonio Spurs by not renewing its arena naming rights deal with the NBA basketball franchise.

The news, first reported by the Front Office Sports website and later confirmed by the San Antonio Report, will bring to an end an association that has stood since the arena opened in October 2002.

The arena was initially known as SBC Center, but was renamed AT&T Center in 2006 following a merger between the two organisations. The current deal is due to expire in the autumn of 2022 and at around $2m (£1.44m/€1.69m) per year is one of the cheapest venue naming rights agreements in US pro sports.

Front Office Sports said there are two main reasons behind AT&T’s exit. Firstly, the transfer of company headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas, where AT&T holds a $20m per year naming rights deal with the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium, following the AT&T-SBC merger. The second reason is due to broader cost-cutting measures.

AT&T also severed its official ties to the Spurs through the announcement last month that Sixth Street, a leading global investment firm, and Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies, had joined the franchise’s investor group as strategic partners. Front Office Sports said AT&T’s minority stake of around 7% was part of the 30% stake acquired by Sixth Street and Dell.

“This sale is a result of the ongoing strategic review of our balance sheet and assets to identify opportunities for monetisation,” said Fletcher Cook, vice-president of corporate communications for AT&T.

“We want to ensure that our assets support our overall strategy and areas of market focus. Where this is not the case, we transition them to owners who will provide incremental stewardship and investment.”

Cook added: “This sale is separate from AT&T’s team sponsorship and naming rights agreement. We continually review our sponsorship strategy, so I can’t comment on our future plans.”

AT&T Center is owned by Bexar County. Commenting on the naming rights news, Bexar County’s Judge Nelson Wolff told the Report: “I was expecting it because they pretty well abandoned San Antonio when they moved their corporate headquarters that we never really fully recovered from.

“We lost a major national corporation and we have very few of them. That was really a blow to us. Since that’s a county arena, I’ll be happy to see another name on it.”

Image: Katie Haugland Bowen/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size