Avis Alaska and the University of Alaska Anchorage have announced a naming deal for the Seawolf Sports Complex. Starting Saturday, the facility will be called the Avis Alaska Sports Complex as part of a 10-year sponsorship agreement worth $1 million.
The facility opened in 1978 and operates chiefly as the home to UAA’s Division I hockey program. In addition to the ice rink, locker rooms and staff offices, the sports complex houses other campus fitness and wellness facilities, including a gymnasium, pool, fitness center and aerobics areas.
“We are honored Avis Alaska has chosen to make a long-term investment in the university and in Seawolf Athletics,” UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell said in a statement from the university. “The entire community will benefit from this partnership, and we are especially excited about what this means for the future of Seawolf Hockey.”
In the statement, UAA said it is exploring renovation possibilities, specifically for the arena’s ice rink and bleachers.
Chris King, vice president of operations at Avis Alaska, was a UAA hockey player from 2000 to 2004. The company has been operated in Alaska by the Halcro family since the mid-1950s, initially as Alaska Rent-A-Car. King said the business has been a sponsor for over three decades but decided now was the time to make a major investment.
“We wanted to come in and do something that had never been done before,” King said in an interview. “And we figured the timing was just right, in terms of trying to get a little bit more traction in the community to have better facilities. Getting our name on the building was kind of priority No. 1 for us. And then priority No. 2 is to have a facility that we can be proud of in this community and work toward getting the Seawolves into a Division I league.”
A few short years ago, the UAA hockey program was teetering on the brink of extinction. The Seawolves hockey program was eliminated by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in September 2020 in response to deep budget cuts, but was reinstated in August 2021 after raising $3 million to fund the program for two years. The 2022-23 season marked the team’s return to the ice after reinstatement.
The team is now a Division I independent, and King said top-tier facilities are vital for moving the program forward.
“Today is another excellent step forward for our hockey program,” UAA Director of Athletics Ryan Swartwood said in the university’s statement. “Avis Alaska’s generosity and commitment to improving our fan experience is inspiring. They have been a key supporter of UAA Athletics for many years, and we are incredibly grateful for their continued partnership.”
Although it’s the home of the Seawolves hockey team, the facility isn’t purely a hockey arena. The complex also hosts intramural sports and classes in sports medicine, recreation, wellness and exercise.
To gain full reinstatement, the UAA hockey team used support from 1,100 donors to reach the $3 million threshold. King said Avis Alaska wanted its sponsorship to be a force that spurred future investment in the Seawolves by other organizations in the state.
“Seawolf Hockey players gave more than 500 hours of volunteer service to our community last year. It’s wonderful to see businesses and the community return the favor and invest in the student athletes,” Kathie Bethard, chair of Seawolf Hockey Alliance, said in UAA’s statement.
Bethard said Avis Alaska’s sponsorship “shows the community support behind Seawolf Hockey and the desire to help grow the program.”
The naming agreement between UAA and Avis Alaska is a 10-year contract valued at $1 million, according to the university. It includes an option to extend the agreement for three more years through June 30, 2036, based on mutually agreed-upon additional investment.
The contract is effective Saturday, July 1.