Pandemic-hit Santa Rosa Epicenter entertainment venue turns to Poppy Bank for refinancing and naming rights

After suffering harsh pandemic fallout in 2020, a Santa Rosa family sports game received an $18 million debt refinance loan from Poppy Bank.

Part of the loan agreement calls for the center to be renamed “Poppy Bank Epicenter”, a sign of the times in many American stadiums these days. According to Ballpark Digest, two-thirds of Major League Baseball’s 30 baseball fields are tied to corporate naming rights.

Santa Rosa’s Poppy Bank, which also plans to install ATMs at the facility this summer, described the deal as a first-of-its-kind $4 billion partnership for the 17-year-old private merchant bank. of assets and offices in California, Utah, Texas, New York and South Carolina.

The 15-year loan closed on April 19.

“This loan has put us on a financial footing that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Epicentre’s chief financial officer, Brad Bergum, told The Business Journal during a walk through the facility on May 24.

The place was packed with parents watching the youngsters in the play area, athletes playing volleyball and soccer on the field. Active types also worked out in the 10,000-square-foot Anytime Fitness on-site gym, while Golden State Warriors fans enjoyed Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals in the Victory House sports bar.

The 130,000-square-foot, two-story Epicenter on Coffey Lane in Santa Rosa recently installed upgrades like an ax throwing cage. He also plans to continue hosting more corporate retreats, setting up an outdoor patio and local collaborations that would involve concession operators, Bergum pointed out.

Additionally, he is bringing more live music to accompany his comedic performances and will be adding drag shows to his live acts for Gay Pride next month.

“We want to do a lot of things well,” he said.

Bergum said that after closing in mid-March 2020 due to the pandemic, the center, which reopened in June 2021, emerged from an operating expense hole.

The center generated $1 million in revenue in July 2019. Two years later, in July, it brought in $800,000 a month, about what it costs to operate the facility, Bergum said. About $50,000 of that amount is just utility costs.

“For a long time, we didn’t have the resources to pay our bills. But we worked so hard to build this,” he said, adding that a cannabis company had approached the facility to buy a location in the industrial district. “I was the most depressed of my life thinking about this (giving up).”

Bergum said the 5-year-old business, which is privately run by an ownership group of nine families, received no restaurant raises but did get $2 million in Check Protection Program funds from pays through the US Small Business Administration to maintain its payroll. The loan has been canceled except for the $30,000 the center has already paid. Epicenter employs 200 people, 50 less than before the pandemic.

Poppy Bank CEO Khalid Acheckzai said he was very happy to help Epicenter survive – for professional and personal reasons.

For one, Acheckzai has three children who enjoyed going there.

“They were excited about the name change,” he joked. After all, Dad’s business has its name attached to one of the funniest places in town.

The head of Poppy Bank has confirmed that the name change rights will last for 10 years as part of the terms. The bank has no operational or ownership interest in Epicenter outside of the name. This is the first time the private bank has included a name change clause as part of a loan.

“We didn’t go in initially with that in mind,” he said. “When we gave them the funding, I think they realized that we weren’t just focused on the business transaction, but that we understood the importance of their business to the community.”

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, manufacturing, technology, energy, transportation, agriculture, and banking and finance. For 27 years, Susan worked for various publications, including the North County Times, Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. Contact her at 530-545-8662 or [email protected]

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