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HomeBusinessFreedom Mobile buys PNE Amphitheatre naming rights, but price not disclosed

Freedom Mobile buys PNE Amphitheatre naming rights, but price not disclosed

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Bob Mackin

Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau (Mackin)

When the PNE Amphitheatre opens in spring 2026, the name on the marquee will be one of four variations proposed by naming rights sponsor Freedom Mobile.

A 12-year agreement between the Quebecor-owned wireless carrier and civic-owned operator of Vancouver’s biggest annual event, the PNE Fair, was revealed May 24 beside the construction site for the $104 million, 10,000-seat venue.

Public voting began immediately on the names Freedom Mobile Amp, Freedom Mobile Arch, Freedom Mobile Rise or Freedom Mobile Place.

But the financial terms were not disclosed by either party. 

More than two dozen companies responded after the PNE advertised the naming rights sale more than a year ago. PNE President Shelley Frost said the top five or six best bids were narrowed to two before settling on Freedom Mobile’s proposal, which includes the first 10 years of the venue’s operations. Bidders came from various sectors, including consumer goods, food and beverage and telecom. 

“We’re really pleased with the financial results, that will go a long way in paying for a lot of costs for the amphitheatre,” Frost said. “Although I’m never going to be able to say out loud exactly what that number is, we’re really pleased with it and I know Freedom is really pleased with their investment.”

Last July, Vancouver city council revealed that the cost had ballooned from $64.8 million to $103.7 million due to additional features, market conditions, soil remediation, an archaeological assessment and relocation of an underground pipe.

Frost said the budget and schedule remain the same, but she was unable to say how much the Freedom Mobile agreement will reduce the price. 

“I know that you would really love to be able to say, instead of 15 years [to pay for the project], it’s 13 years and things like that,” Frost said. “But actually, to be honest, I haven’t really done the math yet of that extra money, how that would all flow through.”

Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau called the financial terms “proprietary.”

“We’ve been honoured to be the one that was chosen by the organization,” Peladeau said. “Now, obviously the financial situation is of importance, but this is the PNE.”

PNE’s Shelley Frost (left) and Quebecor’s Pierre Karl Peladeau (Mackin)

“Being the fourth national operator now will give the opportunity for all Canadians to enjoy that situation. So having the Freedom Mobile name on this amphitheatre, for us an honour, for us, also, a sign of commitment for Canadians to bring value added for their services.”

The Videotron arm of TSX-traded Quebecor acquired Freedom in 2023 for $2.85 billion from Shaw Communications, after the federal government required the sale as a condition of the Rogers Communications merger with Shaw.

The sponsorship brings Freedom Mobile’s name to a major venue in a city where competitors are active. 

Rogers took over naming rights of the Vancouver Canucks’ home from General Motors in 2010 for a reported $60 million over a decade. That was since renewed to 2033. The Rogers brand is also attached to the Vancouver Canadians’ diamond at Nat Bailey Stadium. 

When B.C. Place Stadium reopened in 2011 after undergoing a $514 million renovation, signs reading “Telus Park” were supposed to be installed as part of a $40 million, 20-year agreement. 

The BC Liberal cabinet, however, decided in early 2012 to back out of the agreement and spend $15.2 million to compensate Telus for telecommunications goods and services already provided. 

After the NDP came to power in 2017, stadium manager B.C. Pavilion Corp. went back to the market in February 2019 to find a naming rights sponsor. But that process was shelved due to the pandemic. 

In Toronto, Scotiabank paid $800 million beginning in 2018 to put its name on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors arena for 20 years. BCE paid $100 million in 2002 over 20 years for the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens.

A June 2021 report to Vancouver city council’s Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities said the financial forecast for the PNE Amphitheatre “showed a strong economic return with a 12-year payback, $49 million 40-year net present value and 9 per cent internal rate of return.” 

It fills a gap in the event market for a year-round, rain-sheltered building that could hold between 2,000 and 10,000 spectators. The report forecast the amount of events outside the annual summer fair would grow from five to 49 a year, with revenue increasing from $1.4 million to $9.7 million annually. 

The amphitheatre’s first tenant is expected to be FIFA, for the 2026 World Cup’s daily fan fest watch parties. An announcement is scheduled in June. 

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