Hoffman Estates' Sears Centre could become NOW Arena

After 14 years under its original name, the 11,000-seat Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates could have a new identity Sept. 1.

On Monday night, the Hoffman Estates village board will consider a proposal that would allow Bloomingdale-based NOW Health Group, Inc. to take over the naming rights and re-christen the venue as the NOW Arena.

NOW Health Group is a family-owned company started in 1968 that has a portfolio of more than 1,500 health and natural-based products that include supplements, sports nutrition, foods, beauty, and essential oils.

The company has more than 900 full-time employees, is debt-free and owns the 13 Fruitful Yield natural health food stores in the Chicago area, said Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Dan Richard, whose father started NOW.

"We're as local as can be," Richard said in explaining the company's interest in the naming rights. "For our size, it's a good fit. It's a good facility. It's a good place to go instead of the United Center."

He described the pursuit of the naming rights as a two-year-long quest.

Hoffman Estates Village Manager Jim Norris said the current naming-rights holder, Transformco - the former Sears Holding Corp. - officially has two years left on its current agreement. Under that contract, negotiations with other parties was prohibited.

But when Transformco officials were made aware of NOW's interest, they granted permission for negotiations to take place.

"It's very, very cordial," Norris said of the proposed termination of Transformco's agreement. "They've been a great partner."

Transformco is the company that emerged from Sears' Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in October 2018, only a week after its most recent renewal of the arena naming rights.

The bankruptcy filing raised immediate questions about Sears' ability to honor its renewed financial commitment to those naming rights, but it has kept its promise.

Apart from the potential renaming, the biggest changes under the proposed agreement are to its monetary value and longevity.

NOW's proposal would replace the former $600,000-per-year deal with Transformco with an annual payment of $750,000 for at least 10 years with a built-in option to renew for another five years for a total of $11.25 million, Norris said.

"You're looking at 15 years of certainty," he said.

The arena's general manager, Ben Gibbs, also expressed enthusiasm for the new naming-rights agreement.

"It's certainly a very cool development and good news for us," he said.

Richard said he hopes the proposed partnership can bring increased vitality to the arena once it's able to reopen from the pandemic shutdown.

"The biggest challenge is to get more people there for more events," Richard said. "We hope our employees will help fill in the gaps."

Apart from a name change on the signs, how much difference a rebranding might make to the exterior appearance of the arena is currently under discussion.

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