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New DECC rink is Amsoil Arena

Albert J. Amatuzio -- Amsoil's founder, president and CEO -- speaks at Tuesday's morning news conference at the new DECC arena. Amsoil will pay $6 million over 20 years to have the building named "Amsoil Arena. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)1 / 2
The UMD men's and women's hockey teams will begin play at Amsoil Arena on Dec. 30, when the Bulldogs host North Dakota in a men's game. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)2 / 2

The Twin Ports' new arena will be named Amsoil Arena.

Amsoil, the Superior-based maker of synthetic motor oil, will pay $6 million over 20 years for the right to name the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center's new arena. The DECC intends to place the money in a reserve fund.

The agreement "ensures that the DECC will be able to make upgrades as things age and wear out, without needing to put the financial burden on Duluth taxpayers," DECC Authority board Chairman Mark Emmel said. "The folks at Amsoil are as committed as the DECC is to ensure that Amsoil Arena will be one of the finest arenas in the country for years to come."

The agreement was publicly announced at a Tuesday morning news conference in the still-under-construction arena. During the event Albert J. Amatuzio -- Amsoil's founder, president and CEO -- said he was "very happy to be here."

"I didn't realize I would be paying this much money," he joked.

Under the agreement, Amsoil will pay $2 million upon signing and $200,000 a year, Russell told board members. In exchange for the money, Amsoil will get an external sign on the building, on-ice advertising, the use of a suite, 12 tickets and six parking passes.

The DECC Authority board unanimously approved the tentative agreement Tuesday morning before the news conference.

"In this economic climate I think this is an extraordinarily good deal for both the DECC and Amsoil," said board member Greg Fox, who is vice chancellor of finance and operations at the University of Minnesota Duluth. "It's important that the DECC has a strong source of revenue throughout the lease."

Fox especially liked seeing the DECC receive $2 million early, when the new arena probably will produce less revenue than it will after a few years.

Because the UMD hockey teams will be primary users of the facility, the university once suggested calling it the DECC Bulldog Arena, but Fox said he has no concerns about the Bulldogs playing in an arena named for a private company instead.

"When we said we would play in a civic arena, we understood that naming decisions wouldn't be made by us," Fox said.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a 25-year arena lease agreement with the DECC in 2008.

The naming agreement came about after Emmel approached Amatuzio.

"We approached Amsoil very informally," said DECC Executive Director Dan Russell. "Their response was, 'We'll listen to anything.' And -- bingo."

Amatuzio agreed to the idea after he and other Amsoil executives toured the arena about four weeks ago.

"They were very good to work with," Emmel said.

Russell told board members there are a couple of outstanding issues to be resolved, including getting city permission for the arena's exterior sign and permission from the state of Minnesota.

This is not the first time Amsoil has bought the naming rights for a local event or attraction. The annual snocross event at Spirit Mountain is named the Amsoil Duluth National Snocross.

Construction on the $70 million arena began in April 2009. The arena will include 6,700 seats and an NHL-sized ice sheet. The University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team will play North Dakota on Dec. 30 in the arena's first game.

Amatuzio, 86, was born, raised and lives in Duluth. He played college hockey at Duluth Junior College and at UMD. He admits, however, that he doesn't attend many Bulldogs games.

"Too busy," he said.

Amatuzio served 25 years in the Air Guard as a jet fighter pilot. He founded Amsoil after retiring from the military and after observing characteristics of synthetic oil in jet engines -- reduced engine wear, good performance in extreme temperatures and long life. He thought that synthetic oil also could be used in automobiles. The first can of Amsoil 10W-40 appeared on the market in 1972.

Amatuzio has received numerous awards since founding Amsoil. He was inducted into the Superior Business Hall of Fame last year.

"Amsoil has done things at the DECC since I've been here," Russell told board members. "They are great customers of ours."

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