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The opening battle in the marketing war to be known as South Florida’s most convenient bank goes to Fort Lauderdale’s BankAtlantic. It beat out invading rival Commerce Bank of Cherry Hill, N.J., for the naming rights for the former Office Depot Center in Sunrise, Fla., according to sources familiar with the negotiations. BankAtlantic and the arena’s operator, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, announced the 10-year deal with an option for a 10-year extension on Sept. 6. BankAtlantic outbid two out-of-state financial institutions for the opportunity to brand the 19,250-seat Broward County arena that is the home of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, said Michael Yormark, chief operating officer of Sunrise Sports & Entertainment. Yormark would not identify the source of the other two offers other than to say they were not based in Florida. “The only thing I would tell you is there were some other financial institutions that were interested,” Yorkman said. “Clearly when we sat down with [BankAtlantic president] Jarett [Levan] … it became clear that if we were going to move and do a name change on our building, BankAtlantic was a very, very viable partner.” Two sources familiar with the negotiations who asked not to be identified confirmed that Commerce Bank, which is planning a big South Florida push, was one of the contenders. Commerce Bank Chairman Vernon Hill did not return a call seeking comment before deadline. But Hill has made it clear that he intends to take on BankAtlantic on its own turf to determine which bank is closest to their shared slogan of being the “most convenient.” BankAtlantic claims to be tops in Florida, and Commerce Bank promotes itself as being the best in “America.” Commerce Bank announced plans last month to invest $550 million on a 150-branch network in South Florida and along the Treasure Coast. Hill has said he wants to open a branch across the street from every one of BankAtlantic’s 78 locations. Levan said he wasn’t aware of interest from other parties in the naming rights for the 7-year-old venue. He said BankAtlantic made the deal within a month to expand on its marketing of extended hours and free products at sporting events. BankAtlantic is a sponsor of the Florida Marlins baseball team and the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, Florida’s other NHL team. Levan knows Yormark from his days at the St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Lightning. Levan said he began talks on the naming deal days after BankAtlantic signed on to be the official bank of the Panthers. “I think the urgency was wanting to get a deal done very quickly and wanting to get a deal done before hockey season started,” Levan said. The value of the deal has not been disclosed. Previous arena sponsor Office Depot of Delray Beach paid $1.4 million annually for a signage and marketing program that started three years ago. That included a year without hockey — when the NHL was locked in a labor dispute with its unionized players. Before that, National Car Rental paid $2.2 million annually for a four-year contract.

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