There’s an old proverbial question that asks, “What’s in a name?”
For Gwinnett County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Gas South officials, a name is a pretty big deal. They gathered with county, municipal and local business leaders on Wednesday morning to unveil signage for the Gas South Arena, formally marking the Infinite Energy Center’s rebranding as the Gas South District.
“Everything is in a name,” Gwinnett Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Chief Operating Officer Stan Hall told the Daily Post after the ceremony. “The affiliation with Gas South, as with any naming rights partner, is so important as far as the exposure that we get from whomever we partner with, so I think everything is in a name.”
The Gas South District name was announced earlier this summer, but local officials and Gas South leaders waited until the new sign was ready to be unveiled at the arena before holding a celebration to mark the new moniker.
Gas South inherited the naming rights for the campus, which also includes the Gas South Convention Center and the Gas South Theatre, when it purchased the former naming rights holder, Infinite Energy, in December 2020.
For local officials, the name change has a deep significance because it has local ties. While Infinite Energy had about 100,000 customers in Georgia, according to Gas South President and CEO Kevin Greiner, it was based in Florida.
Gas South, on the other hand, is based in metro Atlanta and is owned by Cobb EMC and had 325,000 customers before the Infinite Energy purchase.
For its part, Gas South sees the ability to have its name on the Gas South District campus as an important step for the company.
“It helps Gas South to really extend our reach into the Gwinnett community,” Greiner said. “Certainly we’re well-known here, we serve a lot of customers here, but we have never had a facility of the quality and reputation as this one to really put our name on.
“We really think that will enhance the reputation of the company. It enhance the awareness of us as a natural gas provider, and I think it will allow us to have a means for getting more engaged in the Gwinnett community.”
Hall said that, while the Gwinnett Convention and Visitor Bureau enjoyed partnering with Infinite Energy, the fact that the company was not locally-based made it harder for it to build up the campus’ name.
“Gas South is an Atlanta-based company, they’ve been for a long time and their reach goes well beyond Gwinnett and our Atlanta,” Hall said. “They’re all over the Southeast so we think that the exposure that we can give them through our, through if nothing else just the impressions that it creates, but also through their customer base for us — we think it’s a perfect match.”
The rebranding also comes at a busy time for the Gas South District campus. A major expansion of the convention center is underway and the keys to newly built convention space and a new entrance are expected to be turned over to county and convention and visitors bureau officials in November.
A renovation of the existing convention center space, the grand ball room and the Gas South Theatre is expected to follow after the expansion is finished. A full-service, five-star Westin hotel that will connect to the convention center is also under construction — resuming after about a six-month pause during the COVID-19 pandemic — and is slated to open in late 2022.
Activity at the campus, and particularly at the arena, is also bouncing back from the pandemic with big name concerts and other major events already lining up dates for the later half of 2021. Some of those activities are events that officials had previously not expected to see happen until 2022.
While the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau manages the Gas South District, it is actually a county-owned property.
“This facility is all about driving entertainment, economic activity, it’s creating that sense of place and community for community,” Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said. “The fact that there’s going to be so many offerings from concerts to sports to different activities is really going to add to the quality of life that our residents are going to be able to enjoy for many years to come.”
Hendrickson also highlighted Gas South’s efforts to help the Gwinnett County community, including committing 5% of its annual proceeds to metro Atlanta organizations that work with children in need.
“Having businesses that come in and say, ‘Hey, we’re really going to put a stake in our community. We’re going to give back to your families. We’re going to give back to those in need,’ that really does make a difference,” Hendrickson said.
“And, it says and it affirms their commitment to truly being invested in this community, not just as a business, but as a good steward of the community.”
Greiner said Gas South is committed to efforts such as improving equity in educational access, helping families be successful and have basic needs.
And, he didn’t rule out the possibility of the company finding new ways to get involved in Gwinnett now that it holds the naming rights for the Gas South District.
“We’ve always worked with organizations that serve Gwinnett,” Greiner said. “However, with the opportunity to really deepen our relationships here, I do think that we’ll see more opportunities to work with nonprofits organizations in Gwinnett, to work with the school system more closely, to provide that financial support and knowhow to help to strengthen those institutions.”