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For $6 million, it's 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 /

Duluth's 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.

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

Russell made his comment immediately following a DECC Authority meeting this morning at which board members unanimously approved the tentative agreement.

The agreement was publicly announced at an 11 a.m. 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. That will help the DECC build up its reserves, 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.

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

Board member and UMD vice chancellor of finance and operations Greg Fox noted that the amount of the agreement covers almost 13 years of the DECC's bond obligation for the arena.

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 what would become the University of Minnesota Duluth. 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."